It's a strange election year for Liberal senators.
They were booted out of their party's caucus a year ago, but some of them still want to help. Depending on their home province, they have an opportunity to campaign freely at the riding level – or feel shut out and frustrated.
The situation started one year ago this month when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau decided to toss all senators out of his caucus, issuing an edict they could not be "organizers, fundraisers, activists" for the national campaign.
The senators formed an independent Liberal Senate caucus, opened their meetings to the public and now refer to Jan. 29, 2014, as "independence day." Senator Dennis Dawson said the move was liberating in a sense, especially since he no longer has to co-ordinate his actions and decide on common positions with Liberal MPs.
"My workload has been lightened, in that I don't have to find out what the party's critics in the other chamber think of various issues," said Mr. Dawson, who chairs the Senate committee on transport and communications.
With 40 years of service in the party, however, he is still angered by the decision to prevent senators from playing formal roles in the coming campaign. Mr. Dawson said he will continue to offer advice to various candidates, especially in his home base of Quebec City, but added he has "no working relations" with the Liberal Party of Canada or its Quebec wing.
"I am frustrated," he said. "Everyone has a right to do politics in Canada, except the 31 members of the caucus of independent Liberals in the Senate."
While Liberals state all ties have been cut off with the Liberal senators, the Conservatives have argued the move was only cosmetic. Mr. Dawson said in that context, some party officials greeted him with a cold shoulder at Liberal events in the past year.
"There are some people in the leader's entourage who wish we didn't exist," he said. "It makes it harder for them to say we have been kicked out."
The situation is easier for some of the other Liberal senators, including the leader of the caucus, James Cowan, who said he will continue to campaign in Nova Scotia. In the province, the provincial and federal campaigns are the same entity, which makes it easier for senators to remain involved in politics.
"I'll be giving advice to candidates about organization, I've always done door-to-door canvassing and speaking at rallies, and I'll continue to do that," said Mr. Cowan, a long-time party organizer in Nova Scotia. He added that he even feels relieved by the order to stay out of the national campaign. "I've run enough campaigns and I have raised enough money over the years, so it's no big blow to me," he said.
Overall, Mr. Cowan said the Liberal Party's decision to sever ties with its senators was a positive one. There is no need to whip votes any more, and his team has opened up its operations to the public, including inviting Canadians to submit their questions for the government.
"We are free to act without any real or perceived obligation to the party, and I think that is right," he said.
Still, he said he "misses the interaction" with Liberal MPs on a weekly basis, and reminisced about the times when Liberal leaders consulted him on a regular basis.