Public relations campaign heats up over English Bay oil spill in Vancouver

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      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.

      Richard Lam

      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.

      Richard Lam





      Apr 11, 2015 at 7:52pm

      Is there nobody around to pour some oil on these troubled waters so we can have a calm discussion about this problem? It seems to me that the usual slick politicians are trying to one up each other by leaking information, when what they should be doing is getting all their ducks in a row and working together. I would suggest the mayor himself take a more active role but I am not sure he has the juice for this kind of stuff.


      Apr 11, 2015 at 7:54pm

      It makes me sick to my stomach. That in an emergency, our "government" cares more about its political survival than the people who pay their salaries. This is one of THE lowest examples of selfishness and self-centred behaviour these creeps have so far displayed. They need to be removed from office as soon as possible. They are destroying Canada with their hatred of all things Canadian.

      And I am equally disgusted that these public servants in uniform have allowed themselves to be used as political props. If they know so little about the potential devastation caused by this spill, they need to be replaced. Huffing and puffing in a uniform for the press because your boss tells you to do it is meaningless.


      Apr 11, 2015 at 9:17pm

      In another story a drunk young male ,pissed into the pristine waters of English bay .The Mayor ,Premier , environmental groups have called for a federal government inquiry as to how this could happen . Booms have been erected and all affected water will be filtered to make sure it is treated . Just in case the beaches will be closed for one week .


      Apr 11, 2015 at 9:18pm

      Canadians are going to have to live with a little adversity or end up as a third world country. No matter how many left wing hypocrites think we can live without it.Most of them who will look round will find that oil is not just for heating homes but what you have on your back is the end result of oil


      Apr 11, 2015 at 9:57pm

      A while back Clark complained that we were woefully underprepared for an oil spill. Looks like she was right.


      Apr 11, 2015 at 10:34pm

      Headline: "Just 6 litres of oil remain in English Bay after cleanup: officials"

      Oddly, the headline made me instantly think of two late seventies TV commercials. First, the dishwashing detergent commercial, with 'Madge' at the nail salon telling her 'client' with one hand in a dish of soapy water "you're soaking in it!" ( - Just once, I wanted the client to reflexively give Madge a right cross to the chin!) Second, the Crisco oil commercial with the tag line "it all comes back, except one tablespoon."

      Who do these 'officials' think they're kidding? You have to go to the Sun and listen to the narrator of the video showing a poor, solitary duck trying to preen the oil from its feathers, before being ceremoniously frightened half to death and netted by people intent on helping. The narrator tries to make the whole process a 'happy little tale'... you'll want to give her a right cross. Seriously.

      What useful purpose do PR people serve? Ah well, like uniformed stooges, everybody's gotta make a buck. (nauseating video just below headline.)

      It isnt just the feds..

      Apr 11, 2015 at 11:09pm

      I am disgusted as well, but it extends to Robertson, Clark and for that matter the mayors of Burnaby and the North Shore all of whom have a duty of oversight for the waterfront and its protection. Their finger pointing and blame shedding act is not what we elected them for.

      Vancouver is Canada's largest and busiest port. It will continue to host freighters, tankers, cruise ships and other vessels carrying bunker fuel.

      Maritime safety.. we HAVE to get it right.

      Mark Murphy

      Apr 11, 2015 at 11:50pm

      Despite Harper's overloading of press releases, we know the truth is out there and it ain't pretty.

      Kimberly Daum

      Apr 12, 2015 at 12:25am

      What, if any, authority does the City of Vancouver have other than to have Parks put up warning signs? Isn't the Federal Government the only decision-making authority here? Global's Keith Baldrey keeps saying/tweeting that Robertson, Clark, Moore etc. all look bad here. But if Robertson & Clark don't have authority to act isn't it their role to keep forcing the issue and to represent the outrage of Vancouverites and British Columbians about the Coast Guard's poor response? Can you clarify the duties of each level of government please?

      The Coast Guard's indignation is nauseating. There will always be ships in our waters. What we're seeing is that there will not always be crisis management.

      Martin Dunphy

      Apr 12, 2015 at 12:33am


      Perhaps someone should ask Mr. Baldrey if he is aware of where the decision-making authority rests.