02/26/2014 10:25 EST | Updated 04/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Ex-Liberal senators announce plan for more accountability

The senators who were evicted from from the Liberal caucus last month are holding a news conference today to unveil plans to occasional open caucus meetings, inviting Canadians to submit questions to be asked in the Senate question period.

Senator James Cowan, the leader of the Senate Liberal caucus, as the ousted senators call themselves, announced the first open caucus meeting will focus on the issue of missing and aboriginal women.

All votes by members of the Senate Liberal caucus will be free votes, Cowan also said.

Cowan further said his caucus will start a national conversation on what he called equalization, the notion that Canadians in all provinces should be able to access the same basic level of services without facing "wildly different tax bills."

Cowan said the initiatives are about doing politics differently in the Senate, and make it respond to the needs of Canadians, "rather than the needs of political parties and their leaders."

Kept Liberal name

The 32 senators, tossed from the Liberal fold by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, have formed their own caucus which has been recognized by the Senate speaker as an official opposition.

Trudeau had urged the ousted senators to sit as independents, but they have managed to hold on to the name Liberal by calling themselves the Senate Liberal caucus.

The senators Cowan leads are Liberals in terms of their party membership cards only. Under rules that hadn't been changed, however, a handful attended the Montreal convention as ex-officio delegates. 

They are not allowed to attend Liberal caucus meetings and will no longer have a senior role, or any official role, in the 2015 election campaign.