This weeks column for 24Hrs Vancouver: Who’s Harper working for?

Is the China-Canada investment agreement a sell-out for Canada?

When an agreement is conducted with so much secrecy and lack of consultation with Canadians that Rick Mercer dedicates an entire rant to the subject, you know something is up. Two years ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then-president Hu Jintao quietly witnessed the signing of the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement so many Canadians are up in arms about this week.

China went onto ratify the agreement not long thereafter, however Canada did not. Two years after the initial signing, a quiet press release issued on Friday afternoon dictated the deal was ratified, eliciting outrage from the public and politicians alike.

Let me make something clear. The many criticisms and concerns of this particular FIPA are not based on anti-business or anti-trade rhetoric, nor are they xenophobia – all tiresome accusations used by those in favour of this deal. In fact, even members of Harper’s own government expressed concerns over this agreement.

This particular FIPA stands out from the many others Canada has with trade and investment partners around the world for a few reasons.

It holds Canada legally bound for up to 31 years, not only with the current government, but subsequent ones as well.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May stated: “Unlike NAFTA, with an exit clause of six-months’ notice, this agreement cannot be exited for the first 15 years. After 15 years, either country can exit on one-year’s notice, but any existing investments are further protected for another 15 years.”

And here’s where the “sell-out” begins. Any exit by Canada from this FIPA would rely on the Chinese government’s agreement, which is highly unlikely. Canada holds a wealth of investment and business opportunities for China both in resource and technology sectors.

The deal is said to be largely one-sided and offers little protection to Canadian investors in China. Here in Canada, it opens the door for legal actions from Chinese and state-owned investors against federal, provincial or municipal policies or actions that might interfere or impede with their business. The implications are staggering and open the door to large liabilities for Canadian taxpayers…

Read the rest of this week’s column, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/09/14/whos-harper-working-for

Posted in 24 hours Vancouver The Duel, BC Liberals, BC Politics, Federal politics, Laila Yuile, The China Connection | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

September sun is calling…

The ongoing teachers dispute, the Mt. Polley, Imperial Mines debacle, and now the ratification of the Canada China FIPA… September has been anything but boring when it comes to politics near and far.

In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be blogging with more regularity, and on a variety of issues. There’s so much to write about, so much for us all to think about.

But for this weekend, the sun is warm and everything is bathed in that low light only September brings, turning everything into gold with its touch.  Soon enough we’ll have fall rains, and I don’t intend to waste a bit of this weather!I’m g

“Well, the sun’s not so hot in the sky today
And you know I can see summertime slipping on away
A few more geese are gone, a few more leaves turning red
But the grass is as soft as a feather in a featherbed
So I’ll be king and you’ll be queen
Our kingdom’s gonna be this little patch of green
Won’t you lie down here right now
In this September grass
Won’t you lie down with me now
September grass.”
-  James Taylor

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This weeks column for 24 Hrs Vancouver: Union proposal a fair one to settle this debacle.

Last Friday, British Columbia Teachers’ Federation president Jim Iker called for the province to agree to binding arbitration to reach a resolution in the ongoing dispute with the government.

Iker proposed that all matters of compensation, benefits and preparation time should go to arbitration, leaving the matters of class size and composition, currently before the courts, to remain with the courts.

If the government had agreed, the BCTF would have called a vote of its members to return to work and get kids back into classrooms. On Saturday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender rejected the offer, saying preconditions would tilt the process in the teachers’ favour.

With the rejection of this proposal, this government has again shown zero interest in bargaining in good faith – something they have already been harshly chastised for earlier this year in a ruling by Justice Susan Griffin.

In the days before Iker’s proposal, Premier Christy Clark took to the airwaves in her own press conference that was not only inflammatory and provocative, but many also say was inaccurate. It took less than seconds for reaction from teachers, parents and press alike to discuss whether she had simply been poorly briefed or deliberately tried to once again provoke the BCTF.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

This was followed by more outrage when politically charged, anti-BCTF comments posted by government employees to the government-run Twitter and Facebook accounts for the BC Education Plan appeared – an action some say violated the government’s code of conduct. The comments were partisan in nature, and inappropriate for a government site.

These kinds of tactics don’t constitute good-faith bargaining on the part of the government and are indicative of another campaign to turn public opinion against teachers. There is no interest in mediating a real settlement because the government is asking teachers to agree to E80, a clause that would have them give up the ruling the court has already given on class size and composition…

READ the rest of this weeks column, Brent’s response, comment and vote at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/09/07/union-proposal-a-fair-one-to-settle-this-debacle

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Poll: Do you agree with the BCTF’s call for binding arbitration?

 

One vote per visitor, repeat votes have been blocked.

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“Drop the appeal so children can go to school.” ~ Dan Brooks, leader of the BC Conservatives.

Although I have many conservative friends, it’s a rare day when I agree with any of them… :)

However, Dan Brooks has a solution so commonsense that it really puts Christy Clark and the Liberal government right on the spot in a big way.

From his press release:

September 2, 2014, Kamloops, BC –  The largest obstacle to resolving the government-teachers’ dispute is Premier Christy Clark’s determination to appeal a decision from January by the Supreme Court of British Columbia that found her administration’s Bill 22 was ‘unconstitutional.’

Dan Brooks, Leader of the BC Conservative Party, made that observation today as he reiterated his call for Premier Clark to immediately drop her legal appeal of the Bill 22 decision and instead begin ‘good faith’ negotiations with the province’s public-school teachers.

“Premier Clark, Education minister Peter Fassbender and other members of this government believe it is better to spend taxpayers’ dollars in courtrooms, instead of in our classrooms,” said Brooks.

The fact is that Ms. Clark and her BC Liberals have a dismal litigation record, having lost twice on their ‘unconstitutional’ legislation that unlawfully stripped bargaining rights from teachers.

It is long past time for Premier Clark to move on, accept the fact that her government lost two expensive court cases, and get back to negotiating a collective agreement that is fair both to taxpayers and teachers,” he said.

Brooks pointed out that B.C. taxpayers already were on the hook to pay $2 million in damages to the BCTF because of the Clark government’s refusal to negotiate in ‘good faith’ with public-school teachers.

How much more taxpayers’ money is going to be mis-spent under Premier Clark if she continues her appeal?” Brooks asked.

The Leader of the BC Conservative Party also noted that the Clark government – instead of using in-house lawyers with the Ministry of Attorney General to fight the appeal – had retained an outside litigation attorney at exorbitant corporate rates.

It has been said that if your case is weak, you should get the most expensive lawyer you can,” said Brooks.

Premier Clark, rather than utilizing government lawyers already on the public payroll, has acknowledged that her appeal argument is so anaemic that she had to hire a legal ‘superstar’. This madness must come to an end – and the sooner the better to get B.C. children back in school.

And with that, Dan Brooks firmly puts the ball in the government court.

For a premier who was so concerned in Wednesdays press conference to get to the issues of class size and composition, this is the perfect opportunity to put action to power and drop the appeal.

Anything less is lip service.

 

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An open letter to the parents of BC on the ongoing teachers dispute

This letter was sent to me this morning by a parent in Surrey who has been very involved in the school system for a very long time, with hopes that it will assist other parents in understanding part of what’s going on right now in the teachers dispute.

“As a parent of children who have been in the school system since the late 90’s I have a unique perspective on the current negotiations. I was in the system when class size and composition were in the teachers’ contract and quite frankly when the system worked. Here is a little history that many parents don’t know.

 There is a fable that class size and composition provided hard caps in the teachers’ contract. In fact no they did not. Classes often went over the caps, but there was a mechanism in place through grievance that allowed teachers to grieve their working conditions if they were over the caps.

Arbitrators had the ability to provide more teaching time to the class or extra SEA resources or more time from specialist teachers for example. Why is the important to today? Because they could also award cash. This provided a system of better supports for all children in the classroom, but it also provided a tipping point where the grievances became too expensive and schools were built.

http://www.ostu.ca/files/News%20-%20LCA%20-%201981-2001%20(Stripped%20Language).pdf

 

In 2002 the Liberal government introduced Bills 27, 28, and 29. Bills 27 and 28 dealt with the teachers and Bill 29 dealt with the Healthcare Workers. — Bill 27, the Education Services Collective Agreement Act, and Bill 28, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act. After the passing of the bills an understanding was created and the Healthcare Workers chose to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and in 2007 was awarded the judgement below

http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/2366/index.do

Many thought the government would apply the decision in Heathcare Workers to teachers, however this did not happen and in 2011 Justice Griffin made her first ruling

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/11/04/2011BCSC0469.htm

 

It is important to note that Justice Griffin had one choice in disposing of the sections of Bills 27 and 28 that were ruled unconstitutional. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms dictate the disposal

  • (1)The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law of Canada, and any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect. “

 

It is important to note that in the first ruling the parts of the legislation that stripped out the teacher’s right to class size and composition were voided and Justice Griffin gave the government one year to remedy the situation and deal with the cost implications of her decision. This ruling has never been appealed.

Rather than deal with the decision the government again passed legislation in the form of Bill 22. So off the BCTF went to court again. This time however Justice Griffin was less conciliatory.

http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/CA/14/00/2014BCCA0075.htm

 

Why is this important to today? Please see the beginning, arbitrators had the right to award cash for past grievances.

Due to the time that has been allowed to pass and the thousands of classes that do not meet the language on the contract, conservative estimates owed to teachers is now over a billion dollars. The government needs a way to negate the past damages.

Everyone asks why now for the strike?

It all comes down to the appeal set to be heard in the Court of Appeal on October 13 and 14th.

The government needs to have the teachers sign away their rights to Justice Griffin’s decision. The government can’t legislate class size and composition again they need to have a collective agreement signed that negates those rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada has reaffirmed, in 2011, its decision in Healthcare Workers that governments cannot use legislation as a way to circumvent the collective bargaining process and cannot use legislation to impose working conditions subject to bargaining.

 Essentially E80 and E81, of the BCPSEA offer, are a get out of jail free card for the government failing to address the issues in Justice Griffin’s decision, which is why you should not count on the government legislating the teachers back to work.

 For parents this is your decision.

The only way our kids will go back to school prior to the Appeal Court hearing is if government feels enough pressure to do so.

My question for the government is, if they are so sure they will win at the court of appeal, why not take out both E80 and E81 and let the judicial chips fall where they may?”

Patricia Enair, Surrey BC.

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The world according to Christy Clark. Keep your ibuprofen handy

H/t to one of RossK’s readers who posted this link over in the comments section at his site.

Listening to the premier talk about her plans for the province is always entertaining, but where it gets really funny on this one is at the 6:20 minute mark, where she goes on about how all this LNG we are going to be producing, is going to get shipped to China and will be displacing ‘dirty coal’ …… yes, she really does say that: dirty coal.

http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/paul-wells-in-conversation-with-christy-clark/

Would that be the same dirty coal coming up from the US, to be shipped out of the newly approved and highly controversial coal facility at Surrey Fraser Docks to China, among other parts of Asia ? The one her government is so much in favour of?  http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2014/08/24/shipping-coal-too-risky

That’s a facepalm moment if I ever saw one.

 

Posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Laila Yuile, The China Connection, The Environment | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Friday afternoon on a long weekend, do you know where your government is? “Error 404- information or government not found”

We can be seduced…by powerful political groups that promise more wealth and lower taxes. Those with power can use clever, psychological tricks and play upon our weaknesses and brokenness in order to attract us to their way of thinking. We can be manipulated into illusion.”
Jean Vanier, Finding Peace    

prayer stick 1

 

Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp delegation planting a prayer stick amidst devastation from  Mount Polley spill, that still shows no plans for remediation of the toxic laden sediment in the impact zone

 

My gosh, it’s the oldest story in the book of politics: Bad news released on Friday afternoon when people are tired of the work week and not paying attention – likely to forget over the weekend – and good news released on a Monday so the governing party can milk it for all the PR worth the entire week…

But admittedly, it always surprises me when they do it yet again. This time, with sediment  results that show arsenic and selenium levels- among others- that are ‘potentially significant’. http://www.biv.com/article/20140829/BIV0114/140829914/mount-polley-sediment-samples-contain-potentially-significant

“…There were some exceedances. This is to be expected because these materials samples were and are believed to be the material that was spilled out of the tailings impoundment,” B.C. Ministry of Environment regional operations director Jennifer McGuire told reporters in an August 29 conference call.

“Copper and iron were significantly higher than the standards that we have here in B.C.”

Furthermore, the ministry said it discovered “low but potentially significant” levels of arsenic and selenium concentrations within the sediment samples.

The results were collected from inside the tailings impoundment on August 12, and from outside the tailings impoundment on August 12 and 15.

McGuire said these most recent results confirm the need for long-term monitoring throughout the Cariboo region.”

No kidding. In going to the government update website for the Mount Polley situation, http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/, I found several updates, including one that went to an error 404 for a drinking water sample: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/mount-polley/pdf/20140829/MemoQuesnelLakeWaterQualityAug16DW.pdf

sediement new

 

 

 

 

Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened in a public sample, and it’s understandable that on occasion a typo might happen.. but it seems to have happened often with test results. I looked at the address bar and it shows two ‘ mountpolley’ portions between the forward slash bars. Clicking on the address link as shown gives you an error.

However, not unfamiliar with this kind of obfuscation, I removed one of the ‘mountpolley’ portion and did get to the proper link:   http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/pdf/20140829/MemoQuesnelLakeWaterQualityAug16DW.pdf

Although the file date is the 29th, the report date is the 27th and show high amounts of aluminum, in fact as per the link above, ‘three magnitudes above the Health Canada drinking water guideline.’

The same error can be found with water quality samples for aquatic life here, as per the main site directory above ” http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/mount-polley/pdf/20140829/MemoQuesnelLakeWaterQualityAug16AL.pdf

Again, error 404 due to ‘mountpolley’ being listed twice in the web address.

Remove one and you have this: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/pdf/20140829/MemoQuesnelLakeWaterQualityAug16AL.pdf

Copper and aluminum were above the chronic and/or the acute guidelines( note it doesn’t differentiate between BC guidelines or Health Canada on this one) on all samples.

Getting down to the heart of the matter.

The money shot happens at this link. And note these are listed as “legal sediment quality samples” which for the record ,are different from just regular lab samples because they follow a parameter set out for evidence admissible to court.

http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/pdf/20140829/MemoQuesnelLkSedimentQualityAug7toAug15FINAL.pdf

Now, anyone who can read, can see that historical levels of contaminants in this area have been exceeded to some level, since testing began in 2010- which is apparently, supposed to make everyone feel good that current levels are not that much higher.

“Elevated levels of seven chemical elements have been found by B.C. government staff in the sediment near a mine tailings spill.

The Ministry of Environment says copper, iron, manganese, arsenic, silver, selenium and vanadium were found in concentrations that exceeded provincial standards during testing near the Mount Polley mine Aug. 12 and Aug. 15.

The early August failure of the mine’s tailings pond released millions of cubic metres of water and silt into local fish-bearing streams.

But the ministry says testing before the spill, at the end of May, also showed the seven chemical elements exceeded the same provincial guidelines.”

Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Mount+Polley+mine+breach+Elevated+levels+chemical+elements/10161351/story.html#ixzz3BrMyXIGs

Is it just me, or did the provincial government just admit to knowing to not only testing the area prior to the failure, but also knowing that the levels of toxic elements exceeded the health guidelines?????

Which leads me to more questions…. did the good people of Likely know about this higher level? Were they advised this by government officials? Did this testing have anything to do with the alleged breaches revealed by a former employee?

The samples of both water and sediment in the impact zone clearly show the government has no idea of the long term impact, and in fact, the current health impact on local residents. Air quality tests were either not done, or not released. The plume in Quesnel Lake is moving, is fluid and will change dependent on wind, rain and other conditions altering dilutions.

And still, with all this info… our government, Imperial Metals and Mount Polley Mining Corporation, are not moving.

Not moving one bit to ensure the future that the people of this area deserve and have worked for.

*** Alexandra Morton has samples that need to be independently analyzed separately from government and is trying to raise the money needed to do that- it’s a very expensive venture, so she has set up a crowd-funding page strictly for this at the following link: http://www.gofundme.com/ds4rtk

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‘Our posterity will wonder about our ignorance of things so plain.’ ~ Seneca

credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/yuctnesenxiymetkwecamp/posts/362499900580420

credit to Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp , posted publicly to Facebook at this link: https://www.facebook.com/yuctnesenxiymetkwecamp/posts/362499900580420

“We are being made aware that the organization of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly.”
T.S. Eliot

25 days ago the good people of Likely and surrounding communities were awoke to a roar that many still say ” sounded just like Niagara Falls.”Except there aren’t any waterfalls near that size in the area and the roar was the sound of billion of litres of wastewater, and solid tailings obliterating local creeks before flooding into lakes and rivers.

And there, it stills sits with chemical scents so overwhelming they make one feel nauseous, and swirls and worries locals who still refuse to drink the water and I don’t blame them.

With weeks having passed, so much still bothers me about all of it. That this was no accident and should never have happened.  ( fantastic blog with many Mt.Polley posts worthy of reading)

That some with positions of public influence are mocking others who call this a disaster. It may not be a disaster to someone who doesn’t live in the community or rely on its natural bounty for sustenance and commercial economic activity, but it’s a disaster on many levels nonetheless.  And why nothing is really being done yet, 25 days later other than discuss whether or not perhaps it would be the cheaper, easier, more convenient, “best” course of action to leave the toxic sludge alone, is incredibly worrisome and why this story must be followed continuously.

The news that the water is fine to drink was enough to slow the panic down, until it was discovered there very well may an interflow between waterways that is allowing a layer of polluted to exist within cooler and warmer layers.. meaning that the sediment did not all disperse as previously thought. And that fact that ongoing water test results are based on samples taken in some cases, weeks earlier, is hardly reassuring.

As initially linked to in an earlier paragraph, there remains a sediment cloud in the lake that moves, and changes water quality,taste and appearance. It may very well be that what is safe in one testing area on one day, changes a week later as the sediment cloud moves – which is why they are testing that now as well.

Toss in the blue sheen witnessed and sampled by Alexandra Mortonthought by ministry officials to be organic in nature as per ‘the poke test’. Tested for two forms of organic compounds, but apparently for nothing else as far as I can see on the initial tests, the sheen was not only found near debris, but also out in the lake and in the Quesnel river.

And of course, you’ll be totally fine to eat the fish as long as you don’t eat the gonads….worrisome because this is still so early in terms of monitoring accumulated levels in fish and other species, which can build up over years. Will salmon and trout spawn successfully in this water? Will the hatchlings survive? What will be the impact as bear, eagles, coyotes and others eat the fish, and it is passed down the food chain?Will humans be able to eat this fish long term? The moose or dear that graze on the foliage and willows that grow along the banks? What about berries or wild foods collected by many First Nations?

The fact is, an incident of this great magnitude hasn’t happened before in Canada, so no one really knows what’s going to happen and in my opinion that is why every effort must be made to mitigate ongoing contamination. In reading through the various memo’s to sample results posted on the governments Mount Polley update site, there are too many “at this time” ” however more monitoring is needed” etc etc.

Despite concerns over drying sediment being carried in the air by wind, there is no air quality assessment done. There is still no talk about the impact on anything other than water and aquatic life.

It’s all quite up in the air and still very much a fluid situation for all purposes. With fall and rain on it’s way and later on the snow of winter, the sediment that shows evidence in photos taken of what appear to be chemical reactions and leaves a heavy chemical smell in the air, is unlikely to moved in time. That raises even more questions as to the impact of heavy rains and melting snow on toxic, heavy metal, chemical laden sediment that surely will be washed into the water system all over again.

And that’s a huge concern. The response to this failure of policy and industry has been a complete and utter failure, slow and lethargic. The only thing that happened quickly was  the efforts to get payments reached with some locals at a time when the full impact of the failure was clearly not known – it still isn’t nearly a month later – an unconscionable action worthy of scorn in my world.

This mess needs to be cleaned up, and it needs to be made right.

It’s not enough to makes some conciliatory actions, toss out some cash and pretend it’s ok just because it didn’t happen right along the highway where everyone could have seen it. Because if this had happened in a highly visible area easy to access for the general public you and I both know a full clean-up would have already been well underway for the world to see. That’s sadly, kind of how it works.

The Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp has released their own initial assessment today and it’s worth the read. They will not let this one rest.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/238124095/Yuct-Ne-Senxiymetkwe-Camp-Initial-Assessment-Report-on-Imperial-Metals-Mount-Polley-Mine-Tailings-Storage-Facility-Breach

Today marks the start of the long weekend we celebrate Labour Day and instead of thinking about relaxing I’m thinking about the good people of Likely, and the surrounding areas who chose to make this area their home.

They have everything on the line and there is still so much to be seen in this area. Please think about driving up or flying to Williams Lake and renting a vehicle to get to Likely. Stay at the Inn, talk to the people, explore the area and most of all learn. Take your own water. There is so much to see and do and learn in the area.

Learn how a community deals with something so large and so public that it threatens their jobs, their homes and their way of life.

Learn why it’s important for each of us, no matter where we live or what the industry around us, to know how and if our government regulates them.

Take a bit of Likely home with you, because we all are in this together and the community needs help.  We can’t leave these people behind, and we must not let this happen again.

 

 “Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed; if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases; if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction; if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence . . .”
Wallace Stegner, The Sound of Mountain Water

 

 

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” Been to Hell” ~Alexandra Morton on Mount Polley visit

Taking family time this weekend and I will have a post on Mount Polley and the sediment results late Monday, but for now, please go read Alexandra Mortons excellent post from her visit to take samples.

http://alexandramorton.typepad.com/alexandra_morton/2014/08/been-to-hell.html

” I entered a place that felt like hell.  You did not want to touch anything, breath, or sit down. This place had once been so inviting it had been chosen as home to First Nations long ago. It was so sweet and lovely that there were picnic tables nearby, berries were ripe and a few flowers still blooming, but everything about the place had changed.

The land was grey and cracking, and the leaves on the trees were grey. It hurt to know I was a member of the species that had done this, created a wasteland, that I believe to be toxic, where life was once diverse and generous…”

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