Opinion: A cartoonist's unlikely friendship with Brian Mulroney

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Older Gazette readers may find this hard to believe, but I always liked Brian Mulroney. It’s just that, as a cartoonist, I’ve never believed in friendship getting in the way of a good laugh or lampoon.

“Bones,” his nickname in university, provided hundreds of opportunities for me and my fellow scribblers to lampoon with abandon, with so many scandals having taken place during his close to 10-year reign as prime minister of Canada.

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Mulroney and I first met in a popular tavern in the heart of Quebec City called Le Chien D’or (now an art gallery) in the mid-1960s. Whatever table the gregarious Mulroney was sitting at was always the most popular and loudest in a bar that attracted an array of interesting characters. He was attending Université Laval. I was working as a street artist just around the corner on rue du Trésor. We laughed a lot together at this and that.

Both of us moved to Montreal in 1967. He made his way up the Westmount establishment hill where the Tories lived, while I settled with my young family in lower Westmount where few conservatives existed.

However, a neighbour of ours became a good family friend — Gary Mulroney, Brian’s brother, who was an art teacher. The friendship flourished until shortly after Mulroney became prime minister, and the emerging scandals had me commenting strongly on them.

As for Brian Mulroney’s reaction to the caricatures, all he could do was grit his teeth, grin and bear it. All politicians must pretend they have a sense of humour and are able to laugh at themselves — and then use our drawings as bird cage liners.

And so it went.

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The journalist L. Ian MacDonald, a mutual friend, was one of Mulroney’s biographers and collected a number of my original cartoons over the years (the gentler ones, anyway), sending several on to “The Boss,” as he called him. I never found out what Mulroney and his wife, Mila, may have done with them.

This recollection ends well: Several years ago, I was launching a book — my cartoon memoir of the Canada-USSR hockey series — with Yvan Cournoyer, a big Mulroney fan, at the Atwater Library. MacDonald called and asked tentatively if he could bring Mulroney along to the vernissage. Quite a number of people were very surprised to see him there!

Mulroney charmed them all with a speech — even several of the serious aging lefties. At one point, I showed the former prime minister a photograph of Jean Chrétien at an earlier gathering giving me a mock “Shawinigan handshake.” Mulroney commented: “Oh, that looks like fun. May I do the same?”

Susan Dewar, a fellow political cartoonist, emailed me this upon learning of Mulroney’s death: ”Always had a soft spot for Brian … cartooned him relentlessly but he took it in the chin! … Asked me if I wanted to feel it (the chin) and I did. “That’s quite the mandible, Sir,” I said. 

He was the last of what I call the “regular conservatives” — very much different from the sorry lot we’re seeing on the right these days.

Terry Mosher, a.k.a. Aislin, is The Gazette’s editorial cartoonist. 

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