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Trudeau can boot senators, but most have deep ties to the Liberals

Senator James Cowan, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, talks to reporters in the Foyer of the Senate on Parliament Hill Thursday May 23, 2013 in Ottawa.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau booted senators out of his caucus this week, saying he wanted to create distance between elected and unelected Liberal parliamentarians.

In explaining his decision to reporters on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trudeau said the party structure within the Senate was preventing it from doing better work. "I've come to believe that the Senate must be non-partisan, composed merely of thoughtful individuals, representing the very values, perspectives and identities of this great country, independent from any particular political brand," he said.

Mr. Trudeau said he was cutting legislative ties with the senators. "The 32 former Liberal senators are now independent of the national liberal caucus. They are no longer part of our parliamentary team."

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But of the 32 senators – one of whom was appointed by Mr. Trudeau's father, Pierre – two-thirds have long connections to either the federal Liberal Party or one of the provincial parties.

The former members of Parliament

Eight of the senators were Liberal MPs before being appointed to the Red Chamber by either Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin.

Fernand Robichaud represented a New Brunswick riding from 1984 to 1990, when he resigned so that Mr. Chrétien, then the newly minted Liberal leader, could win a seat in a by-election. Mr. Robichaud won his old riding again in 1993, then was elevated to the Senate in 1997.

Other former MPs include George Baker of Newfoundland (1974 to 2002); Catherine Callbeck of Prince Edward Island (1988 to 1993), who later served as PEI premier; Dennis Dawson of Quebec (1977 to 1984), also a key adviser to Mr. Martin; Art Eggleton of Ontario (1993 to 2004), a former mayor of Toronto; Céline Hervieux-Payette of Quebec (1979 to 1984), who was defeated in elections in 1984, 1988 and 1993; Serge Joyal of Quebec (1974 to 1984) and Pierrette Ringuette of New Brunswick (1993 to 1997).

The former Liberal candidates

Some of the other senators had stood for election as Liberals but did not win, including Joseph Day of New Brunswick, who ran in 1978, 1979 and 1980, and Mobina Jaffer of British Columbia, who ran in 1993 and 1997. Anne Cools, appointed by Pierre Trudeau in 1984 and the longest-serving senator, ran unsuccessfully in 1979 and 1980. Ms. Cools has long sat in the Senate as an independent.

The Liberal staffers

Many of the senators worked behind the scenes for the Liberal Party, either before or after they were appointed to the Senate. Percy Downe of PEI was Mr. Chrétien's chief of staff and Jim Munson was one of Mr. Chrétien's communications directors before they were appointed to the Senate in 2003. David Smith of Ontario and George Furey of Newfoundland both helped Mr. Chrétien win elections in the 1990s. (Watch a video of Mr. Smith talking to The Globe.)

Terry Mercer of Nova Scotia was national director of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1997 to 2004 and Colin Kenny of Ontario (who left the Liberal caucus late last year for reasons unrelated to the ongoing expenses scandal) was appointed to the Red Chamber in 1984 after serving in Pierre Trudeau's office and as executive director of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Marie-P. Charette-Pullin was president of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2006 to 2008, years after she had been appointed to the Senate in 1995.

The former provincial Liberals

Grant Mitchell of Alberta was a Liberal MLA from 1986 to 1998 and Elizabeth Hubley was a Liberal MLA in PEI from 1989 to 1996.

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James Cowan of Nova Scotia, leader of the Senate Liberal caucus, once ran for the leadership of his province's Liberal Party.

Nick Sibbeston, who represents the Northwest Territories, was an MLA from 1979 to 1991 and premier of the territory in the 1980s, but that legislature does not allow political parties.

Chris Hannay is The Globe's digital politics editor.

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