The Allan Report: Foreign Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns

First, we had Steve Allan’s Report on the (not so public) public inquiry’s findings with respect to the role of foreign funding into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns.

Then we had the Kenney government’s press release which said the Allan Report confirmed “hundreds of millions of foreign dollars were used to block [Alberta’s] oil and gas development, affecting the lives and livelihoods of Albertans.” Not true.   

Finally we had the press conference with Energy minister Savage who declared Albertans had a right to be upset and she was mad. Good, let’s have a tantrum.       

Steven Allan

The whole thing was like watching Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in a Pink Panther movie, one stupid misstep after another.

The Findings

It took Mr Allan two years and $3.5 M to determine that:

  • Some environmental nonprofit/charitable organizations (ENGOs) participated in anti-Alberta energy campaigns (AAEC) and
  • Between 2003 and 2019 some of these ENGOs may have received foreign funding in the amount of $54M (that’s an annual average of $3.4 M, or slightly less than the cost of this public inquiry and roughly one-tenth the annual cost of the War Room).    

Mr Allan concluded foreign funding for AAEC was “significant.”

Really? Charitable giving in 2020 was $169B. Of that 2% or $3.38B went to environmental causes. Mr Allan, a forensic accountant, and his million-dollar team from Deloittes tracked $3.4M/year to foreign funding. That’s hardly “significant.”   

Mr Allan also found that:  

  • Participation in AAEC is not illegal or improper, and such conduct is not to be impugned. Indeed, it’s an exercise of one’s freedoms of expression, assembly, and association and AAEC are lawful and protected in our democracy.     
  • AAEC may have played a role but were not the sole cause of cancellations or delays of some oil and gas developments because much of the reduced investment was due to natural market forces and the economic loss was impossible to quantify.   

At this point Mr Allan could have declared mission accomplished and moved on. Instead he continued for hundreds of pages and found:    

  • ENGOs work together “in concert” and are like “an industry unto themselves.” This sounded ominous until Mr Allan said ENGOs are wise to work collaboratively and to seek to be financially sustainable.
  • Land conservations polices arising out of Agenda 21 (a 1992 UN environmental summit treaty to which Canada is a signatory) were designed to protect forests and marine life, however ENGOs used them to “block” oil and gas developments. Could it be that “blocking” development in conservation areas protects forests and marine life?      
  • Initiatives like the Great Bear Rainforest, the Tanker Ban, the Mackenzie Valley 5-year Action Plan and the Boreal Forest Plan “ring-fenced” Alberta. This is not entirely true given that these initiatives impact the west, north-west, and north-east and have no impact on oil and gas developments to the east and south of Alberta.
  • The Wetlands Restoration Program (Ducks Unlimited) did not stop development. Coincidentally Premier Kenney’s former principal secretary became the CEO of Ducks Unlimited Canada this summer.
  • $103M in foreign funding went to First Nations but Mr Allan did not investigate this funding “due to the complex nature of First Nation issues.”
  • Foreign funding was directed to litigation and political activism. Mr Allan did not provide any examples involving Canadian ENGOs.  

And then Mr Allan really slipped his moorings.

The Clouseau bits  

Mr Allan’s report is replete with innuendo, speculation, and non sequitur.

For example, he says extremism is dangerous, Canadian society is becoming polarized, and trust in institutions is at an all-time low. True, but what does this have to do with the subject of this public inquiry?  

Then there’s Mr Allan’s exposition about the Strategy. Apparently, the Strategy evolved from a focus on the oil sands to a global drive to wean the planet off fossil fuels. It sneaked up on governments and the industry and caught them off guard. This allowed the Strategy to “grow and develop.” By the time you’re finished reading this section you’d swear Mr Allan was talking about the Borg.  

The Allan report is padded with reprinted news stories, lengthy book excerpts from environmentalists and pop-star statisticians, screen shots from Twitter, Facebook and various websites, and anecdotal reports of Al Gore TED talks. None of which could be considered probative.  

It sinks to a new level of whacky when Mr Allan describes a report (complete with illustrations) explaining that NGOs can be characterized as sea creatures. They’re sharks, orcas, sea lions and dolphins. Greenpeace is a shark; Pembina is a dolphin. What this has to do with the foreign funding of AAEC is anybody’s guess.

The best Clouseau moment comes when Mr Allan shoots Premier Kenney in the foot with a scathing attack on the War Room which he said lacks credibility, is almost universally criticized, and may be damaged beyond repair. On that we can agree.  


Mr Allan set out six recommendations. One calls for greater transparency and accountability for ENGOs and would involve rewriting parts of the Canadian and US tax acts to “level the playing field” so industry and the government could keep up. The others are simply a rehash of recommendations that have appeared elsewhere.

And two years and $3.5 million later we’re left wondering is that all there is?  

Because if this was the best Mr Allan and the team at Deloittes could come up with we’d have been better served by Inspector Clouseau. At least he’s funny.

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45 Responses to The Allan Report: Foreign Funding of Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns

  1. Amy says:

    Thanks again for a great column. I was quite offended when Ms. Savage she was sure most Albertans would be angry that environmental groups spent money protesting oil and gas. Really, how would she know, there is little evidence the UCP pay any attention to what Albertans think. And given the huge protest to coal mining on the Eastern slopes it seems Albertans care a great deal about the environment.

    • Dwayne says:

      Amy: Peter Lougheed would never allow industry to proceed, if the environment would be put in jeopardy. I remember when Peter Lougheed was really unimpressed with oilsands development in Alberta, when he got an ariel view of Fort McMurray, from a helicopter, around a decade and a half ago. He even was so bold as to call Fort McMurray a mess. Thanks to Ralph Klein, Albertans have to find a way to come up with at least $260 billion to fix all the damages left behind by the oil companies in Alberta. When the UCP rescinded Peter Lougheed’s 1976 Coal Policy, in an undemocratic fashion, Albertans had a right to be concerned about this, as well as be angry over it. It took Alberta musicians, such as Paul Brandt, Corb Lund, K.D Lang, Jann Arden, and Teri Clark to also voice their concerns over this. All of us do drink and use water for other different uses, breathe air, and consume food that was grown and raised on a farm, or a ranch, or grown in a garden, or caught in some type of body of water. We all have to be concerned about the environment. No amount of money can help us if the environment is compromised in any way, shape or form. We can even see for ourselves, based on the prolific drought we had this year alone, that water will be the largest concern we have. Coal and oil will not fix parched crops, that can’t grow, as a result of drought. The UCP does not see those things. To them, it’s all about money, and their wealthy corporate associates.

      • Dwayne, it’s a pity the UCP didn’t take advantage of Peter Lougheed’s wisdom when it came to developing the oilsands. Lougheed did not support rampant development. He suggested, one, maybe two projects be approved at a time. To approve more would be bad for the environment, inflate wages and house prices, strain public services and ultimately end in tears. He was right.

    • Amy that’s an excellent comparison. Sonya Savage’s press conference was another iteration of the UCP’s classic default mode. When they mess up, they try to deflect criticism by pitting one segment of the population against another. Don’t blame us, blame X. This time they pointed the finger of blame at those wretched ENGO tree huggers who gleefully killed Albertans’ jobs. This divisiveness used to work in the past but it’s wearing thin.
      Even the pro-UCP media described the Allan Report as a “nothing-burger”.

  2. Public Servant says:

    This report, the war room and countless other boondoggles are just a way to funnel millions of dollars into UCP crony pockets.

  3. Rick Cowburn says:

    Truth is stranger than fiction!

    On October 25, 2021 at 19:38:30, Susan on the Soapbox ( wrote:

    susanonthesoapbox posted: ” First, we had Steve Allan’s Report on the (not so public) public inquiry’s findings with respect to the role of foreign funding into Anti-Alberta Energy Campaigns. Then we had the Kenney government’s press release which said the Allan Report confirmed”

  4. Carl HUNT says:

    I was hoping the Inquiry would investigate foreign funding from oil companies that spread misinformation about “World Class Environmental Management”! How much foreign money is spent on advertising false benefits to Albertans, like low Royalty rates? Who is going to get stuck with the clean-up and long term destruction of renewable resources? Does the ‘Canadian” Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) include foreign oil producers and what influence do they have on the Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta politicians?

    • Carl isn’t it interesting how those who insist that the media report “both sides” of the issue whether it’s the anti-vax, covid-is-a-hoax people or the “good people” on both sides of Charlottesville, draw the line when it comes to investigating misinformation promulgated by the energy sector.

  5. Paul Pearlman says:

    Another chapter in the growing legacy of the UNITED CLOWN PARTY the book keeps getting bigger every day March 2023 can’t come quick enough!!!

    • And you know Paul, that’s the problem with the UCP…each and every week we get distressing news, we’re becoming numb to their idiotic moves. Consider Kenney’s handling of covid. There was a time when we were worried if the daily new case numbers rose above 100 and the admissions to ICU were in the 30 to 50 range, today Dr HInshaw reported 442 new covid cases, 836 people are in hospital and 183 are in ICU. And it’s just another news day. What’s happened to us under the UCP regime is frightening.

  6. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. You know the UCP are losing even more credibility when the New York Times reports on their antics, and not in a good way. If the Steve Allan inquiry had any merit to begin with, it would never have been met with so many delays trying to find something. Essentially, it was very costly procrastination. Steve Allan got an annual salary of $290,000, and other Albertans have to suffer from the UCP’s cuts. The UCP continues to make Alberta get humiliation on the national and international levels.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      The NYT has a way with words. Marvelous headline.

    • Dwayne, it’s interesting you mention the NYT. Sonya Savage did not flinch during her press conference until she was asked the last question which came from a NYT reporter. He took her to task for saying ENGOs needed to be more transparent, noting that Steve Allan and Deloittes were able to find all the information they needed by simply going to the CRA website and adding up the numbers. (As an aside, the fact they couldn’t find damning evidence doesn’t mean there’s a lack of transparency, it means the damning evidence doesn’t exist).
      The NYT reporter asked, what more do you want? If you want them to report on fees paid to lawyers and lobbyists then you should make private companies do the same thing. She said private companies already report on these items, he said she was wrong. Savage said if someone went to a company’s AGM and asked for this information she was sure they’d get it. Based on my experience as inhouse counsel with a large multinational corporation I can tell you she’s wrong.
      Furthermore, I just glanced at TC Energy’s MD&A for 2020. Nowhere does the company break out the dollar value of fees paid to lawyers and lobbyists. In fact they’re not even mentioned. So it would appear Savage is wrong.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I have also heard of this, fairly recently. What are your thoughts on the matter?

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      Dwayne, I read this piece and immediately wondered what Jack Dorsey’s qualifications are in the field of economics. I’m pretty sure the answer is “none.” (So is mine, but that just means my opinion is as valid as his.)

      A few months ago SOME economists were warning that inflation could rise sharply because of the economic recovery from Covid-19’s disruptive effects. Others were saying it was inevitable that inflation would look bad because of the previous contraction–and would then level off at more-or-less normal levels. Both predictions were short-term and over-simplified, because of the ongoing disruption of supply chains and repeated Covid-19 waves throughout the world. (My sources are various columnists at the CBC, BBC and the Guardian.)

      Where Dorsey really goes off track, in my opinion, is in his support for cryptocurrency. Here, I’m relying on my personal reluctance to “invest in” (a.k.a. “bet on”) a so-called “money” with nothing but computer algorithms to support it. My misgivings are largely confirmed by the professional opinion of Mark Carney, in his book “Value(s)”–plus those columnists I referred to above.

      In short, hyperinflation is less likely than Dorsey believes, but if he’s willing to bet his Twitter stock on bitcoin–he’s welcome to it.

    • GoinFawr says:

      As long as Mammon’s Wizard(s) have their grubby hoofs on the levers of financial deleveraging and monetary inflation it will never be ‘hyper’ enough for all of us frogs in the pot to notice as the temperature of the water slowly creeps to a boil…

      Digital currencies are intriguing. Unlike the fiatscos Canuks currently pay Gisecke and Devrient to print Her Majesty’s visage upon, digital currencies boast an alleged limit to the number of ‘coins’ that can supposedly exist. And, for a trader, Bitcoin’s USD price chart is a downright natural. They have problems, like the ever growing blockchain defining each token, and infinite divisibility…IMO they are currently not very fungible, legally.But they seems resilient to Mammon’s wizards and their deep pockets… so far.

      For what it is worth: specie has been universally accepted for thousands of years.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      Dwayne, re the CNN report, I think Bank of America must be heavily invested in fracking companies–and therefore desperate to pump up stock prices. No way do I believe oil will reach $120, ever. It’s too easy for OPEC to open the taps–and if they don’t, somebody else, like the US or Russia, will.

  8. jerrymacgp says:

    Lets not lose sight of the fact that the entire premise upon which this inquiry was based was a baseless, paranoid conspiracy theory promulgated by a “researcher” — Vivian Krause — with no relevant credentials. Vivian Krause’s initial thesis, which she has since disavowed, was that so-called “anti-Alberta environmental campaigns” were a nefarious plot by the US oil & gas industry to suppress Alberta’s industry and steal fossil fuel market share from Alberta-based energy companies. Never mind that much of Alberta’s fossil fuel industry is itself US-owned, but this entire notion would have been laughable if it weren’t for the fact that a government saw fit to spend millions of taxpayer dollars “investigating” this bizarre theory.

    What a faecal exhibition [a shite show] is Alberta politics under the UCP.

    • Jerrymacgp: you’re bang on. As I slogged through the Allan Report it was pretty obvious that Allan started with Krause’s premise and tried valiantly to find evidence to support it. He’s a forensic accountant, he hired Deloittes (and paid them more than $1 million) to help him find the smoking gun that Kruase was unable to find. And guess what, it didn’t exist. So the last section of his report turned into his musings on the global “movement”, the global “strategy” and whatever else he could scrape up to justify spending $3.5 million to come up with nothing.
      Let’s face it, when you’re looking for evidence to support a conspiracy theory you’re going to sound pretty silly trying to explain why you didn’t find it.

  9. JCurrie says:

    I agree with the previous writer that the real oil/gas scandal in Alberta as elsewhere is the deception of the oil companies who knew for decades the damage they were doing but used the old Tobacco papers drill to deny, blame the victims, demonize the opposition and capture politicians to support their needs for profit. THAT and the willingness of recent AB governments to become their willing partners, selling the public and Canada out so they could benefit from personal financial gains is the real scandal and it is so sad to me that our children will be paying for our blindness.

    • Well said JCurrie. So my question is this: I understand why so many Albertans believed the pipe dream in the past, but in the face of the existential threat of climate change, how can they justify clinging to the pipe dream now? Most of them will be alive to see their children suffering as a result of their wilful blindness and their greed.

  10. Dave says:

    Well, I suppose this reports conclusion is somewhat consistent with most conspiracy theories, not able to be proven. I wonder if Mr. Allan initially realized what he was getting into here when he took on this task. I suspect if he had, he probably would have declined it. There was, and still is, a UCP government with a view that it wanted supported, regardless of what the facts might indicate.

    At least Mr. Allan’s conclusion about transparency was kinder to environmental NGO’s that the Harper government which previously tried to take away charitable status from Canadian environmental groups. However, I don’t think this is really the problem here, just a convenient excuse for not finding the conclusions that were wanted.

    In addition to not finding evidence of much foreign funding of supposed anti Alberta environmental campaigns, Mr. Allan had to remind his bosses free speech still exists, the NGO’s did nothing illegal and by the way that War Room thing has been executed very badly.

    A bigger problem for the energy industry here is not so much foreign funding of anti Alberta energy campaigns, but a UCP government that is at best ineffective at defending them and at worst shoots them in the foot.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      “…at worst shoots [the energy industry] in the foot.” How right you are, Dave!

      Here’s a blog from Markham Hislop, posted in April 2020. (Back then, the multi-billion dollar bet on Keystone XL looked a lot less stupid than it did seven months later.)

    • Dave, I don’t know what Mr Allan understood about the project he was taking on, but I found it telling that in his cover letter delivering the report to Sonya Savage he said he was honoured she chose him to conduct this work and “while it has been a challenging assignment in many ways, I have no regrets whatsoever about taking it on.”
      I’ve read many cover letters submitting reports to the government, this is the first I’ve seen with an Edith Piaf “non, je ne regrette rein” sentiment. Considering how goofy the report turned out to be, I’m not surprised. Nothing about this public inquiry nor the report made sense.

      • Dave says:

        I am not quite sure what to make of his “no regrets’ comment either. I feel like saying “Really!!?’ in response to that, as I don’t buy it. Perhaps it is meant to be some sort of a statement of loyalty or defiance, or Mr. Allan is just a “I did it my way” kind of guy.

    • Dave, these are all very good points. The one thing I didn’t get into in the blog post was just how undemocratic the public inquiry process was. Markham Hislop interviewed law prof Martin Olszynski on this very point. I lost track of how many times Martin said this process was “unprecedented.” Unprecedented is fine when we’re talking about putting a man on Mars, it is not okay when we’re talking about the state investigating its citizens on allegations of illegal behavior. The damage Kenney is doing to our trust in public institutions, including the judicial process, is truly unprecedented.
      Here’s the clip:

  11. Mike J Danysh says:

    “One [recommendation] calls for greater transparency and accountability for ENGOs and would involve rewriting parts of the Canadian and US tax acts to ‘level the playing field’ so industry and the government could keep up.”

    Keep up with WHAT? The Harper government weaponized the Canada Revenue Agency by requiring NGOs (mainly environmental, but some pro-choice and pro-democracy charities got clobbered too) to report their annual income and limit “advocacy” activities to 10% of their budget. I vaguely recall one pro-oil NGO got its hand slapped for something or other, but the main victims of Harper’s vindictive legislation were the ones criticizing his energy policies and his gutting of environmental protection regulations.

    The Trudeau government, to my knowledge, still hasn’t rescinded Harper’s attack on ENGOs. CRA had ongoing audits which were NOT cancelled by Trudeau’s government. That’s why I’d like to propose “leveling the playing field” between pro-oil and pro-environment NGOs.

    How about a rule that EVERY lobby group active in Alberta has to disclose its annual financial statement?

    Let’s make CAPP, the Fraser Institute, Friends of Science (hah!!) and their ilk publish their budgets and donor lists. Let’s make them limit “advocacy” and lobbying to 10% of their budgets. Let’s find out who pays the Fraser Institute’s bills, and how much the Canadian Association of Petroleum Propagandists spends every year. Want to bet their budgets are 10 times higher than, say, Ecojustice Canada and the Pembina Institute?

    Maybe then the field would be closer to level, not tilted in industry’s favour.

    • Mike, yes, the “level the playing field” comment was way over the top.
      If it was a real concern the energy companies would have come out in droves to show their support for the Allan Report and yet not one, NOT ONE, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Savage at the press conference and not one, NOT ONE, provided a quote for the press release. It was just Savage and CAPP yapping about the cabal (my word) blocking development.
      The only other quote came from the CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce who said it was critical to invest in technology, consult with First Nations, and reduce emissions to address climate change. She made no mention of the great conspiracy which crippled the industry.
      I’d say that was indicative of how the industry viewed this tawdry exercise.

      • Mike J Danysh says:

        Susan, that’s an excellent point. The silence from the oil patch should have been deafening–not even a peep from the usual suspects, the rich guys in Calgary who owned the Progressive Conservative Party, and now presumably the UCP (with some shares going to Restaurants Canada and used-car dealerships).

        Not even a “No comment” or “Company ______ representatives did not return calls.” Nothing!

        Like Steve Allen himself, they’re apparently hoping it’ll all just go away. (Sure Steve, the lawyers told you not to discuss it. A simple “No comment” would have been more dignified.)

  12. Neil Fleming says:

    Hi Susan, another great blog, Thank You!
    I am not sure why, but I watched Ms. Savage’s entire press conference and kept thinking to myself, this is an intelligent, well educated and articulate woman who has to fully understand the issues to which she is speaking. She also knows that her entire position and responses are complete bullshit! Yet, she is able to carry on with a straight face, smiling and feigning anger when appropriate. To my mind, this makes her the absolute worst type of politician; in it entirely for themselves with no regard for the welfare of the average Albertan. Many others in her caucus are not as bright and probably just plain gullible to Kenney’s scheming, but clearly she is all in, all on her own and as much of a danger to Alberta as Kenney. The ease with which these people lie is mind boggling.

    • Neil, your point is very well taken. Savage is a lawyer, whatever she and others like Doug Schweitzer and Tyler Shandro are even more dangerous than your run of the mill ideologue because as lawyers what they say carries more weight.
      Timothy Snyder discusses this in his book On Tyranny in a chapter entitled “Remember professional ethics”. Snyder says professionals are guided by norms and rules of conduct that require them to be ethical. When they ignore these rules the authoritarians have won. As I mentioned above, lawyers have said the Allan Inquiry was unprecedented in how lacking in transparency and procedural fairness it was. The fact that three lawyers sitting in Kenney’s cabinet didn’t have the intelligence or courage to bring this to Kenney’s attention takes my breath away.
      I note that Steve Allan’s lawyers advised him not to attend the press conference or say anything more about his report. It would appear Allan’s lawyers did a better job of protecting him from the public than the lawyers in Kenney’s cabinet did of protecting the public from Kenney.
      This is shameful.

  13. Carlos says:

    After all the scandals and awful decisions of the last 4 months it seems the UCP learned NOTHING.
    Here is what Jason Kenney said about the new Federal Minister of the Environment
    ‘Kenney says longtime activist’s appointment as environment minister sends ‘very problematic’ message’
    The only problematic message is that Jason Kenney as usual is about three centuries behind schedule. He has not even realized we have climate change just like the rest of the Conservative gong show.
    This report is just more of the same. Allan the Great got away with 3.5 million dollars but that is the cost of doing business.

    • Carlos, I believe Kenney’s nonstop whining has reached the point where he has zero credibility with the rest of Canada and that goes double for the federal government.
      It’s a bizarre situation. Kenney is holding onto power only because the conservatives are afraid that if they cut him loose, the party will fracture and they’ll lose the next election. But the longer they stay true to this man, the worse it will be for them when it finally blows up. And it will blow up.
      What a ridiculous province we live in.

  14. Jaundiced Eye says:

    The Allan Inquiry has finally been exposed as the asinine farce that is was. However, let’s not forget that this exercise was an egregious abuse of power by Kenney and the UCP. Allan was granted legal powers that could have turned the Inquiry into an Inquisition.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      Jaundiced Eye, that was well said. Sandy Garossino of the National Observer made the same point (behind a paywall, but give it a try):

    • Mike and Jaundiced Eye. The fact that Kenney was prepared to engage in this egregious abuse of power by calling the public inquiry and his ministers are prepared to perpetuate the lie in the media speaks volumes about who Kenney is and why he’s so dangerous.
      The Sandy G articles were very helpful. I’d forgotten that Kenney referred to the harsh treatment of environmental dissidents by Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Iran in glowing terms. As Sandy said, “it couldn’t be more apparent where his political instincts lie.” The man is not fit to run a hot dog stand, let alone a province.

  15. Carlos says:

    Well the circus continues and today David Climenhaga’s is a must read
    You thought the pandemic was bad – well we still have this degenerative disease to deal with called JK

  16. Carlos says:

    Try this one more time – sorry if it repeats

    The only conclusion we can make out of everything happening in this province is that the impossible is actually happening. We are witnessing incompetence at the highest level I ever dreamed possible in Alberta. Maybe my expectations are too high but the fact is that the world more than ever needs all of us to stand up and realize that we are the best stewards of life nature created in its limitless evolution process and we are failing so badly that its making younger kids being raised in an atmosphere of not even having the hope to dream. This alone will kill our civilization regardless of whether or not we will have enough food or even air to breathe.
    We have all the tools to move forward with dignity, decency and respect for everyone or we can chose what is happening in the name of interests for those that cannot understand their role in this planet. We know how to built our own little secure space and we have to force these people and their conspiracy theories to their corner of their flat world.
    I for one have been ready to move forward for a long time – this kind of imbecility has to stop
    Jason Kenney has to resign or be pushed out before we have nothing left and no dignity in this province. We are decent citizens and we need to defend what is ours with full strength.
    The Oil companies may own our money but not our minds and Jason Kenney can retire with his millions and let us build a decent province for our kids and grandkids.
    They will not win this regardless of their power.

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