History

The story behind this famous René Lévesque cartoon

In his own words, editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher explains his best-remembered work
  • Dec 05, 2016
  • 326 words
  • 2 minutes
aislin cartoon rene Lévesque Expand Image

It was just a drawing, but it became part of Quebec’s political lexicon during a key moment in the province’s history. The valium quip in the cartoon above, created by Montreal Gazette editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher (a.k.a. Aislin) after the Parti Québécois’ landslide victory in Quebec’s 1976 election, was oft-quoted when political discussions became heated. It, like many other editorial cartoons, helped form the fabric of Canada.

The cartoon is republished in The Story of Canada in 150 Objects, an upcoming special issue produced by two of the country’s greatest magazines: Canadian Geographic and The Walrus. The issue will explore a collection of items, ideas and icons that have shaped the country’s past, are influencing its present and will define its future. It will be on newsstands Jan. 16, 2017.

Below, Mosher writes the story behind the world-famous cartoon and, in the video, talks about his other work during the years that René Lévesque led the Parti Québécois.

The evening of November 15, 1976 was as electric a night as I have ever experienced in Montreal. Although the polls pointed to a probable PQ victory, no one – not even Lévesque – could quite believe the results.

Shortly after the polls closed, I wandered into The Gazette’s editorial offices to watch the results come in. Earlier in the day I had drawn stand-up caricatures of Lévesque and Bourassa, but with no idea of what I might have them say. Watching the faces of the editorial writers as they digested the results, I thought, “Everyone here looks like they could use a Valium”.  Back at the drawing board I adapted the line, turned in the drawing and was out of the office shortly after nine.

This cartoon, probably the best remembered of any I’ve drawn, seemed to comfort some of the city’s Anglos and Gazette readers: the sun would continue to rise and set. While it’s true that many people left Montreal, many more stayed, took their political Valium and became better Montrealers for it.

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