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Former Liberal senator ‘frustrated’ by party’s campaign in B.C.

Larry Campbell was a forceful Liberal senator until Mr. Trudeau dismissed him and other senators from the party caucus in 2014 in a bid to seize the agenda on Senate reform.

NEVILLE ELDER/The Globe and Mail

A former Liberal senator from B.C, removed from the caucus by Justin Trudeau last year along with other Liberals, says the party's federal election campaign is faltering in British Columbia as newly independent senators sit on the sidelines.

"Can anyone tell me when this group surrounding Trudeau will actually take [Conservative Leader Stephen] Harper on?" former Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell wrote to other ousted Liberal senators in an e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

"It's not as if Harper hasn't screwed up time and again," Mr. Campbell wrote.

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Mr. Campbell was appointed to the Senate in 2005 by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin and was a forceful Liberal partisan until Mr. Trudeau dismissed him and other Liberal senators from the party caucus in 2014 in a bid to seize the agenda on Senate reform.

Mr. Trudeau's measure cast Mr. Campbell into exile. In his e-mail, he wrote: "I know we as Independents are not invited to the dance." It was an apparent reference to the Liberals' efforts to bolster the party's fortunes in B.C. where the 2011 election left it with only two of the province's 36 seats. Six new seats have been added by redistribution in B.C.

Mr. Campbell also wondered whether the campaign was going to let Ontario's Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne "carry the can" in the campaign – Ms. Wynne has been a pointed critic of Mr. Harper and vowed to campaign for the Trudeau Liberals.

"It's agonizing to watch and even in B.C. questions are being asked. The choices are rapidly coalescing and the Liberals aren't there," read the correspondence signed "Larry."

On Wednesday, Mr. Campbell confirmed that the e-mail was genuine and said he was an independent speaking to other independents and has nothing to do with the federal Liberal campaign.

"All I was doing was expressing my frustration, yet again, and that's it," he said in an interview. "It's the personal opinion of a 10-year senator, who has followed politics all his life and isn't a card-carrying Liberal."

Mr. Campbell said he felt "sick" that former Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff had been "beaten up" without the party effectively defending them.

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Mr. Campbell said that he did not have a sense of whether others shared his views because he had only sent out his message Wednesday and not had an opportunity to check for responses.

A senior official in the federal Liberal campaign in B.C., responding to Mr. Campbell's commentary, noted that Mr. Trudeau had left the "Ottawa bubble" to launch his national campaign in Vancouver last week and that the Liberal Leader has deep commitments to the province.

On Sunday, Mr. Trudeau said he had previously made a commitment to attend the Vancouver Pride Parade and was fulfilling that promise by being in B.C. He also said he was acknowledging his "second home" of B.C. where he worked as a teacher and has family roots on his mother's side.

In his opening remarks in Vancouver, Mr. Trudeau was critical of both Mr. Harper and federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

Bruce Young, co-chair of the federal Liberal campaign in B.C., said Mr. Trudeau had worked hard and received positive exposure to tens of thousands of people along the parade route in downtown Vancouver. He described it as a good start to the Liberals' B.C. campaign.

While he declined to respond specifically to Mr. Campbell's remarks, Mr. Young said the campaign would be intently focused on the views and concerns of "regular British Columbians."

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