VICTORIA - A longtime British Columbia editorial cartoonist described as a survivor among his Canadian colleagues is a victim of budget cuts after more than three decades at the same newspaper.
The Victoria Times Colonist announced Tuesday that it can no longer afford to employ cartoonist Adrian Raeside.
Raeside, 58, made his career skewering B.C.'s often colourful politicians with caricatures that were steeped in West Coast irreverence. His favourite targets were the province's premiers, starting with Social Credit premier Bill Bennett in the 1980s to current Premier Christy Clark.
"Mike Harcourt, he just was brutalized by me," said Raeside of the 1990s New Democrat premier who was in office during the province's fierce anti-logging protests.
Raeside said he never missed an opportunity to point out that Harcourt's bald head resembled a clear-cut forest.
"I met him once when he was premier," said Raeside. "He's a big man and he's shaking my hand and he's squeezing and he's squeezing and he's squeezing, and he leans in and says, 'I hope that's your drawing hand?'"
"I said, 'Actually, no, I'm left handed, so you are really screwed now."
But if he could pick a favourite B.C. politician during his 36-year career at the Victoria Times Colonist, Raeside said it would be former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm.
"He was the rock star of B.C. premiers in the stuff that he did," Raeside said. "He really encapsulated the Wild West."
Raeside's editorial cartoons have appeared in more than 400 newspapers and magazines worldwide. He is the author of 14 books, and his cartoons will continue to appear in numerous B.C. weekly newspapers.
Times Colonist editor-in-chief Dave Obee said Raeside was one of the last cartoonists in Canada still plying their craft in the dailies.
"Basically, newspapers across the country have been scaling back on cartoonists for several years and we've been one of the last," Obee said. "He has been a vital part of the paper and it's a cut we made with great reluctance and hesitation."
Obee said Raeside was the last employee left from a merger in the 1980s between two Victoria daily newspapers — the morning edition Daily-Colonist and the evening newspaper, the Victoria Times.
"He was basically a runny-nosed kid from Saltspring Island coming in to offer his cartoons to the Daily Colonist," Obee said. "We gave him his start. There was such raw talent there."
Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan said Raeside has a knack for finding the humorous essence of a political moment and putting it into his cartoons.
"I'm a born and raised Victorian, and I have been looking to the Times Colonist and Raeside for capturing complex ideas. To see that disappear is a real tragedy."
Raeside's last cartoon appeared in the newspaper on Friday. It made light of the province's current drought with two parched salmon appearing at a bottled water shop demanding their water back.