© Canadian Press photo
James Cowan, flanked by other newly declared Independent Senators, including P.E.I. senators Catherine Callbeck and Libby Hubley, speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday. The senators were reacting to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's announcement to remove senators from the caucus.
They might not be part of the parliamentary caucus any more, but P.E.I.'s Liberal senators don't think that's a bad thing.
On Wednesday morning, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced he was removing all 32 Liberal senators from the parliamentary caucus.
But all three of the Island's Liberal senators say they will still be part of the senate Liberal caucus, which will be independent of the parliamentary caucus.
Senator Catherine Callbeck said the move came as a surprise to her, but she is still a Liberal and will continue working as she always has until she retires in July.
"I'm very comfortable with it," she said.
Trudeau made the announcement during the regular Wednesday caucus meeting, which up until the change included MPs and senators.
He later told the media it was a step toward reducing partisanship in the senate and if elected prime minister he plans to go further by appointing senators through an open process with public input.
Callbeck called it a courageous move for Trudeau who she said is going back to the idea the Fathers of Confederation had for an independent house of sober second thought.
"I think there's no question it's a very historic moment," she said.
She also agreed with the concept of an open and transparent process for appointing senators.
"I think that would be a good idea," she said.
Callbeck said there should still be a senate Liberal caucus because they still represent the party's values.
"We are Liberals and we will continue to have senate Liberal caucuses the same as we have been doing."
Senator Percy Downe agreed Trudeau's decision was a move to return the senate to a less partisan institution and said it was a step back to representing the different regions of the country.
"I think it's a good move," he said.
Downe said he has always taken the view that he wasn't in the senate to represent the Liberal party, but rather P.E.I., although he did share Liberal values when reviewing legislation.
"That's what I was doing and that's what I'll continue to do," he said.
For Senator Libby Hubley, she said the decision came as a surprise but she called it a liberating move.
"It's certainly something that I feel the Canadian people have spoken fairly forcefully on, the fact that they would like to see some change within the senate and I give Mr. Trudeau full compliments for taking that first step," she said.
Hubley said she didn't think a Liberal party leader ever pressured the senators on any issues, but now the Liberal senators will be their own independent thinkers.
"I think there's some benefit from that."
Despite the change, Hubley said the senate Liberal caucus re-affirmed its leadership will remain intact, including her position as deputy party whip.
She also said the situation will be evolving from day-to-day and the caucus is in the process of establishing committees to look at how the change will impact their offices.
"It will come," she said.