From Trudeau to Trudeau: Political cartoonist Aislin looks back at 50 years of drawing Canada

Terry Mosher, better known as Aislin, talks to The National's Wendy Mesley about his five decades of challenging taboos and skewering Canadian politicians.

The National's Wendy Mesley talks to artist Terry Mosher about his 5 decades of skewering political elites

The Montreal cartoonist known as Aislin has found the humour in Canadian politics for the past 50 years, from the election of Pierre Elliott Trudeau to his son Justin Trudeau. (CBC)

When Terry Mosher first started drawing political cartoons, Canada was celebrating its 100th anniversary and on the cusp of "Trudeau-mania," which would see Pierre Elliot Trudeau become prime minister.

Now, as Canada marks its 150th with Justin Trudeau at the helm, Mosher — better known by his pen name Aislin — is still ruffling the feathers of the country's elites. 

The Montreal cartoonist's storied career is being honoured in Montreal at McCord Museum's retrospective show, Aislin: 50 Years of Cartoons, and also in his newest book, Trudeau to Trudeau: Aislin 50 Years of Cartooning.

"Sat down with a pencil, piece of paper, started to draw, woke up 50 years later and I had my own museum show. Who knew?" Mosher told The National's Wendy Mesley.

Terry Mosher drew Prime Minister Justin Trudeau riding to Parliament Hill in his late father's car. He later added a sun in a nod to the younger Trudeau's 'sunny ways' rhetoric, and took off his shirt to reference the prime minister's shirtless antics last summer. (Terry Mosher)

The cartoonist cut his teeth covering the heydey of Quebec separatism, but admits the political landscape has changed significantly since then. 

"It's quietening down here, there's no question about," he said. "It's a good thing, I think, for people, finally realizing that Quebec is a pretty good place and it's run pretty much by Quebecers now. And so there's not that old anger ... about the English. It's changed. Younger people are kind of fed up with this; they'd rather be on the internet."

Still, there have been plenty of other controversies to keep Mosher's pen busy. The cartoonist has taken aim at both Trudeaus and every prime minister in between, and gotten himself into some trouble along the way.

In 1975, he sparked international outrage when he depicted Queen Elizabeth with little pig feet, propping up a puppet-like Prince Philip on her lap.

"Nobody had ever drawn even a critical cartoon of the Queen in the English-language media up until that point," he said. "It was just, it was forbidden. So the Monarchist League went nuts about that one."

People were up in arms about this 1975 cartoon depicting Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, says Terry Mosher. (Terry Mosher)

In 1993, he depicted former prime minister Brian Mulroney face down in the snow and became the first artist to have his work denounced in the House of Commons.

Bob Layton, father of late NDP leader Jack Layton and then the PC member for Lachine, Que., stood up in the House and called Mosher's cartoon "a crime against fundamental Canadian values of decency and mutual respect."

This Montreal Gazette cartoon of Pierre Trudeau tripping Brian Mulroney in the snow earned Mosher condemnation in the House of Commons. (Terry Mosher)

But 10 years after Mosher was denounced in the House of Commons, the Canadian government granted him the nation's highest honour — the Order of Canada.

"What a great country, huh?"

For more on this interview, tune into The National at 9 p.m. ET on CBC TV or CBC News Network, or watch Mesley's full interview with Mosher above.