Many Vancouverites are quite rightly enraged by the sight of oil-soaked birds struggling to survive around English Bay.
First Nations worry about the impact of the M/V Marathassa fuel spill on the fishery.
For environmentalists, the recent accident confirmed their worst fears about the dangers associated with the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline project. If approved, it will triple shipments of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to the Lower Mainland and bring a massive increase in tanker traffic to Burrard Inlet.
The pipeline-loving Conservative government looked utterly incompetent when it took 13 hours to notify the City of Vancouver about the spill.
It didn't help the Conservatives' image that they're the same folks who eliminated the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. It's about five minutes from where the M/V Marathassa had dropped anchor.
After suffering a public-relations drubbing in the first 48 hours, the federal government has come firing back. It's hoping to contain political damage and save the seats of Conservative MPs.
Two of the most vulnerable are the North Shore's Andrew Saxton and John Weston. However, a large enough backlash against the spill can also undermine Conservative hopes in Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver Granville, and Burnaby North—Seymour, to cite three other ridings that the party is targeting.
The Conservative counter-offensive started with Industry Minister James Moore trying to claim that the Canadian Coast Guard has done an outstanding job because 80 percent of the oil was contained.
Since then, the feds have been putting Roger Girouard, an assistant commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, out in front of the media for regular briefings. He upped the ante by claiming there are just six litres of oil left in the water.
Stephen Harper's spin doctors know that their political opponents will be less likely to condemn a guy in a uniform than any politician, including Moore.
Today, the feds ramped up the p.r. campaign by sending high-quality images of cleanup efforts.
The photos were taken by Richard Lam, whose client list not only includes many newspapers, but also Industry Canada.
The government news release asked that Lam be given a credit. This makes the images appear like news photos rather than public-relations shots.
The feds' news release also calls it the "Marathassa spill", shifting attention to the vessel and away from the government. Notice how the photo below also shines a spotlight on the boat.
Meanwhile, Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May has been interrupting the Conservative message track by highlighting how federal government cuts led to the lengthy delay in notifying city officials. And pictures of oil-drenched birds on the television news are hardly reinforcing confidence in the Conservative government's stewardship of our shores.
Of course, the federal government didn't include a single photo of birds or any other wildlife in its 27 images released to the media today.
Instead, all we saw were Lam's well-composed pictures of hard-working guys ensuring that our beaches are being kept clean.
That's how public relations works these days.