Podcast - April 18, 2023

Episode 76: The Federal Budget | Lab Grown Meat?

Much ado about…The 2023 Federal Budget.

Episode Transcript

Announcer: You’re about to get lucky with the Barenaked Money Podcast, the show that gives you the naked truth about personal finance, with your hosts, Josh Sheluk and Colin White, portfolio managers with WLWP Wealth Planners IA Private Wealth.
Colin White: Welcome, everybody, to the next edition of Barenaked Money, behind the shower curtain with Josh, and this is Colin. And we are going to do our best to try to find some meat on the bones of the last federal budget. Now I know we are not timely in doing this, because underwhelmed. Would that be an adequate description of what we felt, Josh, when the federal budget was released, at least when it comes to the whole relevance to financial planning or anything of that ilk? Is that a fair assessment?
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. I saw one headline that said, “For financial advisors, there’s not a whole lot of complexity here,” which I think is fair.
Colin White: Which makes it hard to try to generate content, but we’re that dedicated to the cause that we’re going to turn this into content. So Josh, why don’t we start talking about what wasn’t in the budget?
Josh Sheluk: Okay. From our perspective, a couple people asked me, “Did they make any changes to the capital gains inclusion rate?” We’ve been talking about that for a few years now. And what wasn’t there? Well, no changes to the capital gains inclusion rate, so if you have capital gains, you’re still paying at a 50% inclusion rate going forward. I wasn’t that surprised this year because it seems like the chatter had died down over the last year on that. But that was a noticeable absence for me.
Colin White: So what did we learn from that, Josh? Did we learn anything from the that this wasn’t included? Was there a lesson there?
Josh Sheluk: Well, I think there’s lessons been learned two years in a row now, is maybe you don’t make financial planning decisions based off of what might happen in a budget because those budgets are politically motivated. I think the chatter, to be honest, is politically motivated as well. I am a pretty big sports guy, and I’ve heard multiple times over the last few years that teams will advertent-ly link something on Twitter just kind of through their backdoor channels, just to see what the public reception is, and then they’ll make the decision after the fact, based on what the public perception is. So that may have been a little bit of the gamesmanship going on here over the last couple years, just to get your finger on the pulse before you actually release something.
But we’ve seen and talked about people making changes, realizing a bunch of capital gains, for example, selling a cottage because they want to get out in front of this capital gains change that is supposedly going to happen. And here we are a few years down the road and nothing’s happened, and I know you’ve been hearing about this your entire career.
Colin White: No, absolutely. It’s one of the things that gets floated. And there’s a few different reasons it gets floated. People like to worry about things. And another reason is that people can use it as a reason to call to action. If I was trying to become your advisor and I said to you, “Hey, listen. I think you need to do this,” and create some urgency and and action that you’re going to take, then you and I are going to start working together. And we’re working against the mean government, and that’s a common foe that we can work together against and make a better tomorrow. But you always ask me the question, or often as me the question about: Have I seen this before? Hell to the yes. This is something that circulates, I’m going to come out and say pretty much every federal budget in my entire career, somebody has asked me in the months leading up to it, or the year leading up to it, “Is this going to be a thing?” And because again, the fear is we’re going to get caught and have to have a higher inclusion rate.
But I still maintain that would be political suicide. If you want to get voted out in a hurry, that’s not a bad way to go about it. So I’m likely to think that there’s going to be done by … They may announce that next year or the year after that this is going to change. That I think is a bit more likely. But under any circumstances, our advice always remains, assuming things on rumor or expectation about what’s going to happen in the future, that’s especially when it’s going to cause you pain now because your choice to get around that is to trigger a capital gain early. Right? That’s the choice, you’re going to cause yourself pain. It’s like I’m going to get hit with the baseball bat, so I’m going to hit myself now, so I get later, it’ll feel better. I don’t know. I’m not sure what the logic is.
Josh Sheluk: That’s one way to think about it, for sure. Was there anything else noticeably absent in your opinion?
Colin White: Oh, come on now. You’re not planning enough time on the dark web, Josh. Your primary residences are going to become taxable.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. That seemed like a last year story. That one seemed to come and die pretty fast.
Colin White: Yeah. But they did actually … Well, ooh, look, a segue. Watch this. This is the art of telling a story. There was more chatter about owning additional houses and flipping houses and things of that nature, so there was some changes when it comes to those kinds of things. So housing was featured in the budget, at least a little bit.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah, right. Now flipping the side of the coin there, is there anything that you noticed with this budget that you would think is very meaningful or noteworthy?
Colin White: Wow, very meaningful. That’s a struggle. Now keeping in mind the seat that we sit in, from where we sit, I couldn’t come up with something that’s very meaningful from a personal financial planning perspective. There was some very detailed work put into green issues and carbon capture and all kinds of tax credits in there. Well, I guess we can get out ahead of this because a lot of people will say, which is these tax incentives and tax credits are going to spawn a whole bunch of companies that are going to come into being to take advantage of these tax incentives, which means they’re going to be looking for investment in these companies that have come into existence to take advantage of tax incentives. And Josh, what’s your initial reaction to a company that comes into existence to take advantage of a tax credit.
Josh Sheluk: Don’t we have those already?
Colin White: We do. This is typically where we find out strongest investments in a highly subsidized niche industry that’s brand new.
Josh Sheluk: No. You wouldn’t find us fishing on that pond, that’s for sure. Probably not going to breed the best of the bunch, I would say. When you have extra money being thrown at something, yeah, it’s going to create some inefficiencies there, probably from the business side of things. If you give me a whole bunch of money, I’m going to go find a business model that will take advantage of the money. That’s what I’m going to do. And it seems to be, if I had to guess, what’s going to happen with these green initiatives. That could be great for the environment and it could be great for the economy as a whole, and it could be great for the progress on the technology front. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great investment. If the government needs to subsidize something, that means that there’s not enough profit created on its own to incentivize people to go there.
Colin White: The challenge is when you watch companies develop for not a pure profit motive, when they can’t survive in the actual open marketplace, then you know what, there’s a policy argument that they’re helping. But again, from an investment perspective, it’s really, really difficult to see something successful there because they’re scoring themselves as something other than being able to swim in the big pond. So yeah, I don’t think that this is going to … This is going to generate certainly some investment activity, but I don’t think it’s going to be solid investment activity that the average retail advisor’s going to want to get involved in. Great new ideas are wonderful, but what you want to invest in is profitable companies at a good price. And when you see a profitable company at a good price, that should have your attention. A brand new company that’s operating on government subsidies, now that doesn’t tend to be a good recipe to begin with.
The other thing that was in there, Josh, is the … And again, I don’t even understand it because this seems to be so opaque, was the employee ownership trusts. Have you seen that thing?
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. I did, read quickly. A bit of over my head, so I kind of moved on. I don’t have a lot of insight on that one.
Colin White: Well, basically all the employees got together and want to buy a company, but it has to be all the employees. And there’s some really, really strict guidelines. I started trying to imagine a situation where it worked, and I really couldn’t come up with one easily. So yeah, I don’t think it’s got a practical application that I’m aware of that affects anybody’s personal finance, unless you’re an employee that actually gets to buy a company with it, then maybe that’s the thing. But again, that didn’t seem to be a thing that a whole lot of people would be affected by.
Josh Sheluk: Right. Yeah. For me, my first thought was sort of big picture. What does this all mean, the budget as a whole? And the biggest takeaway for me was if we look at this from a very, very high level perspective, the budget is increasing the deficit. And a higher government deficit is … Can I say it’s by definition, inflationary? Is that fair?
Colin White: You have to get on a couple buses to get all the way to your final point there. But I would say that’s a reasonable number of transfers that you would take that would get you there. Yeah. I’m willing to accept the premise.
Josh Sheluk: So maybe it’s not the strict definition of inflationary, but there’s some connotations there that relate higher government spending with inflationary activity. On the other hand, a more constrained budget deficit would be, or less government spending, would be deflationary. And we are in an inflationary time right now, and everybody’s complaining about inflation. And actually, the budget explicitly tried to attack some inflationary areas, but the budget itself was inflationary because it’s a higher deficit. So that seemed to be a little bit counter to what I would’ve expected or maybe … Maybe expect is a strong word, but hoped for is maybe what I would say.
Colin White: Maturity is creeping in, Josh. Your expectations are being lowered. This is how you make it into your later years. You have to lower expectations. We live in a democracy, so this had to be popular, so that’s why you saw a grocery rebate. That was just a fancy way of saying we’re going to give you all some money because it doesn’t have to go to groceries. It’s all in how they’re positioning it.
Josh Sheluk: It’s a marketable way. It’s not a fancy way. It’s a fancy and marketable way of saying that we’re going to give you some money. Right?
Colin White: Well, again, people feel bad and government, part of government’s job is to make people feel better. And that’s what I … Listen, I will jump on the other side of the fence and argue pro government. This government, especially during the pandemic, did everything it could and stuff it shouldn’t have done to make everybody feel better. At a certain point, you need a hug. But they’re still giving us hugs, and maybe the time for hugs has passed, and we need to move on to something else, like a bit of tough love, perhaps. And I don’t know if they have that gear.
Josh Sheluk: You need discipline as well as love, I believe, when you’re rearing a child.
Colin White: Oh, here we go. Josh is going to go into child-rearing now. I can’t wait for these conversations. This is going to be great.
Josh Sheluk: Hey, I just know the one side of it. If it was nothing but love that was showered on me, I think I would’ve turned out pretty poorly. But I got a fair amount of both in my life.
Colin White: Well, listen-
Josh Sheluk: It’s missing the one, the other side of that, I think. Right?
Colin White: Yeah, but I think we can go into the weeds and find … Hey, look, I can give you one universally positive thing. You can money out of RESPs faster.
Josh Sheluk: Oh, yeah. And I like that one too. I like that one too. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that … Look, I’m finding six figure RESPs now on a fairly regular basis. So if you’re making it easier to pull money out of that in a quicker way, I think that’s a good thing. You’re encouraging people to save for their children’s education, but then on the other side, you’re making it harder to get the money out. Making it easier, good thing. Two thumbs up from me.
Colin White: And they also extended the ability for the ownership of RDSPs, there was a temporary measure that was put in place that’s been extended, which again seems to be … And RDSPs are a wonderful thing, they are are, a wonderful planning tool for those who could take advantage of them, so they made those a little bit better. I’m talking marginally. I’m really scrounging here. I’m really scrounging for stuff that might be somewhat relevant. I mean, they fixed bill C-208, which was the intergenerational transfer of the business. That was on the books, but it was on the books badly, and people were abusing it. They fixed that. But the alternative minimum tax is now a thing.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. Well, I mean it’s been a thing for a while.
Colin White: Nobody’s ever actually paid it in the entire history of that. No, no. In the entire history of that tax, there’s never been a taxpayer who’s actually, because it’s a refundable tax and you can refund it over time, so anybody that’s ever got caught paying it, according to the tax experts that I’ve talked to, the entire history of it, it’s always been refunded basically over time because you get to claim it against future taxation. So they made it so it actually has some teeth now, and they’ve expanded the application of it. So that’s going to potentially be a planning aspect of things that’s a little bit more important.
Now typically only shows up when you’re claiming a large capital gain, or you’ve got other some large tax favored transaction that’s going on, AMT will show up. But it does increase the complexity of your tax planning a little bit because now it is something that you want to keep an eye on, more so than in the past.
Josh Sheluk: I’m sure someone out there is going to challenge you on that claim, that nobody’s ever paid it. I’m sure that there’s somebody out there that has. But certainly, it’s not something that comes up a whole lot. And it seems like it’s going to come up even less often based on the changes that they’ve made, but it might, to your point, have a little bit more teeth when it does come up. The situations where I have seen this come up in the past are I think, as you were alluding to, somebody sells a business, gets a large capital gains exemption, selling the business, or could be a farm property or fishing property as well, that’s where I think that this is going to come into play most often. You could I guess have a large charitable donation as well that could create this. But generally, you have a bit more control over that, the timing of that, and the size of those things. So it will come up, it’s not going to come up very often. For business owners, I feel like it’s probably most relevant.
Colin White: Yeah. But it does come back to, it does change, it can change the tax planning at that end of the spectrum. There’s another aspect in there, which is … I’m not looking for the word. Not nefarious, but there’s something in there that I’m actually a big fan of, but it’s not out and out saying you can’t do some things. They’re working on a reported list of reportable transactions. These are things that the tax man’s not in favor of, but there’s not really a rule against it. But they’d just like to know that you did it and have it on record, so that they’ve got a shorter list to come back to when they finally do fix the rules because they did change the general anti-avoidance rules. So the general anti-avoidance rules used to be for any transaction, and generally anti-avoidance is when the tax man says, “Hey, we just don’t like what you did. You didn’t break any specific rule, but we don’t like what you did.”
So the standard used to be that any transaction whose primary purpose was to reduce or avoid taxes was subject to [inaudible 00:15:41] to main purpose, so it doesn’t have to be the primary purpose anymore, so they’ve broadened the [inaudible 00:15:48].
Josh Sheluk: You sound like the Fed now. You sound like the Fed with the language thing.
Colin White: I am. I’m reading what they wrote. So they’re changing the game because generally anti-avoidance is there for people who are trying to do very aggressive tax planning, and seen a number of loopholes closed over the years of complicated or complex tax planning, everything from anti-trusts and splitting income with minor children. There’s been all kinds of things that people have spent a lot of money on putting a lot of things in place that have gradually been stamped out over time. So this reported list of transactions is kind of interesting because they’re actually going after some of the stuff we see in the life insurance world, where there’s insurance concepts that are floated that are very, very aggressive, and on their face seem unlikely. But they’re now becoming part of this list of reportable transactions because again, they’re trying to make their job easier. It’s sort of like they did the charitable gifting using art, where we donate $1000 and they give you a receipt for $10,000 because the art appraised for $10,000, even you paid $1000 for it.
Anyway, there’s a whole thing that went on for a number of years that CRA just quietly sat there and sat in the weeds, and then started auditing and overturning all of it. Now I think they found it a lot of work to go find all of these, so what they’re trying to do is just have a cheat sheet. Tell me what you’re doing, and that way I don’t go looking for you later. I have you on a distribution list and I can just send the auditor. So that’s a good list to keep track of and something to remember when you’re doing your tax planning. Is this something that’s a required disclosure? Because if it is, then maybe you’re skating too close to the edge.
Josh Sheluk: Yep. Doing more work for them. [inaudible 00:17:34].
Colin White: Well, exactly. They’re busy people, provided they stay on the job all the way through the tax [inaudible 00:17:41] because apparently, they made April the strike month for CRA, so we’ll wait to see what that does to people’s tax returns closer to the deadline.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. Well, that’s exciting. It’s going to be even harder to get through to the CRA this year. Good stuff.
Colin White: Easy now, we need to be nice. I was in favor of them, Josh. You need positive, positive vibes towards our hardworking friends at CRA.
Josh Sheluk: I love them. I love them, for sure. So moving on from that, what does the liberal government have against financial institutions?
Colin White: I don’t think that’s a fair way to frame the question. I think it’s: Where can we get away with getting more money? I think it’s how most governments work. I’m not even going to label this as liberal. Most governments work this way. It’s taking from the rich guys and giving to the poor guys. Look, you and I have had the conversation about the oligopolistic situation in Canada, and the favorable environment that these institutions work under. And as a result of the Canadian public liking to have and benefiting from the stable financial system and the lobbying efforts that have been put forth.
So it’s one of those maybe uncomfortable relationships that we’re kind of in. But there’s room for the government to take a little bit off the table for having created this monopolistic, or sorry, oligopolistic situation. So I can see them getting away with it. I can see it souring the milk a little bit on bank investing, for sure, and also the tax on share buybacks was something else that you actually made a very good point about on, during one of our portfolio manager conversations. I think that one’s a little bit more interesting. They’re going after share buybacks. For the first 10 seconds, that sounds really mean and stupid, but it might have a silver lining.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. The reason I asked about financial institutions in particular is because this is sort of the third blow from a tax perspective against financial institutions. So there are dividends, certain dividends that are received by financial institutions that are, let’s say taxed at an advantageous rate. And I don’t even pretend to understand all the ins and outs of corporate tax. But it sounds like some of that advantage is being diminished with this budget. And that goes on top of over the last couple years, there’s been a surplus tax on profits of financial institutions.
And then that one time, whatever they called it, Canada Recovery Dividend or something, that they charged … I don’t know how they can charge tax and call it a dividend. That’s pretty cool. But yeah, all these things have happened to essentially create a higher tax burden on financial institutions over the last three years. And the government seems to be justifying it as well. We kind of bailed out the financial institutions by helping the citizens by putting money in their pockets. So here’s one way to recover some of it. I guess that kind of makes sense, seems a little bit indirect. But it does seem to be like they’re piling on a little bit right now.
Colin White: Because we also have the carbon tax kicking in on fuel. And we have the alcohol tax kicking in. It’s a multi- fronted attack that’s going on. And yeah, the tax burden is creeping up, which is as it does under liberal leadership, and we go through periods of time like this. And we hope that it balances out with a different government in the future, and they go in the other direction too far, and then we make fun of them. Again, the way I describe the system in Canada is you’ve got a car that’s kind of wobbling down the road, and sometimes it’s wobbling towards the left ditch. And then you want to change drivers, then it wobbles towards the right ditch. As long as you can keep the car somewhat on the road in the right direction you’re good. But it’s always going to be veering towards one ditch or the other. And our job as voters is try to keep the car somewhat in the middle and headed in the general direction we want to see it go.
Josh Sheluk: Canadian government, always veering toward one ditch or the other.
Colin White: Well, this is why I’m not in charge of actually naming any of the new things they come up with in the budget because they don’t like my ideas.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. Any other highlights, or low lights, or some type of lights in there, Colin?
Colin White: Well, I wanted you to repeat your comments you made on the share buyback. I don’t know.
Josh Sheluk: Well, yeah. So the share buyback, this was a tax that was introduced. Was it last budget that they introduced this, 2022?
Colin White: They talked about it. I think this is the initiation of it, since the beginning of this year or something.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. So for all institutions, not just financial institutions, there’s a 2% tax on the amount of I guess aggregate dollar value of share buybacks that they’re doing. Now my thoughts, and they continue to be this, is that this is stupid because share buybacks is just a way for companies that don’t need the cash, the profits that they’re generating to return money to shareholders. They could do this in one of two ways. They can either do it through dividend or they can do it through share buyback. It’s effectively doing the same thing either way. You’re just giving money back to the shareholders. So the government, whoever’s taxing this, and the US government is doing something similar I believe, they’re basically saying that they don’t like money being returned to the shareholders.
The company is telling people by doing a share buyback or dividend that they don’t have uses for this money that are effectively generating a high enough return on their investment. So they’re giving it back to people so they can look for other spots to invest this money, whether spending money on groceries or reinvesting it in other companies that hopefully do have a better return on investment for [inaudible 00:23:23]. And so this is just one way of them limiting that. Now what are companies going to do? I think either, one, keep more money on their books, or probably two, issues more in dividends. Again, a dividend is the same thing as share buybacks. So I guess they’ll probably claim victory when dividends increase at the margin. But I’m not sure it’s actually accomplishing what they are setting out to accomplish with this.
Colin White: [inaudible 00:23:53]. You made a very interesting observation in that the share buybacks can also affect management compensation. So they can be motivated to be buying back shares to drive up the share price, which leads to higher compensation for executives, which is not in the shareholder best interest. And in fact, it’s one of those nefarious games that gets played. And I thought it was an interesting observation and I think it has some validity to it because you’re de-incentivizing that or making it more difficult for an executive committee to justify because again, there’s more of a tax burden on it. So by pushing it back into dividends, maybe you eliminate some gamesmanship. That’s completely a hypothesis. I’ve got absolutely no data to back it up. But it seems to be, and I completely stole it from you, so it seems to be one of the smart things that if I’m scrounging for, the government’s not really grabbing money, they’re actually doing something really positive that’s going to improve everybody’s life. If I’m scrounging to find that answer, that’s kind of where it leads. It’s de-incentivizing some executive compensation shenanigans.
Josh Sheluk: Accidentally is the key point there. That’s not what they had in mind at all, but they accidentally created something positive.
Colin White: Yeah. And again, I had to travel a little way to get there. But yeah, I think that might be a reasonable way you could look at it and say, “Okay, I can feel better about that. I don’t need to [inaudible 00:25:16] so much.”
Josh Sheluk: You’re building a lot of bridges. You’re building a lot of bridges today, and I appreciate it. It just speaks to your frame of mind, I guess, right now.
Colin White: That’s exactly. Very lucid, very lucid.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. The only other thing kind of piqued my interest was that there’s going to be dental coverage for uninsured Canadians at a … Those who are in the sort of lower income bracket, so to me, this is a positive thing. It is probably good for people to walk around without any cavities and clean teeth and all that fun stuff. You’re shaking [inaudible 00:25:49].
Colin White: Are you out of your mind? Where are these dentists going to come from? Are they going to go down to the dentist store and buy another 100,000 dentists and give them chairs to put people in to do more dental work? What are they thinking? You can’t … Just stop. Well, yes, we’re going to make housing cheaper. No, no, you have to build more houses. You can’t just drive up the prices of the houses that are out there.
I’m sorry, Josh. This one didn’t pass my sniff test because unless they have a whole bunch of out of work dentists that they can immediately press into service, I’m going to get all my dental work done right now before my dentist gets overrun by all these people coming in for dental work. I mean, I know that for a fact because if this is … And again, as a human, wonderful idea. I am a social liberal when it comes to these things. I think that’s a wonderful program. And you’re right, it’s all kinds of good things. But I’m also practical. Unless you have thousands of unused dentists, I don’t know how they’re going to make this work.
Josh Sheluk: Did they suggest how many Canadians this is going to benefit? Did you see that? I should’ve looked for that because that’s a good point. It’s one that I never really thought of. We don’t have dentists growing on trees, so we probably need to do something about this.
Colin White: Well, exactly. It’s not like … Back to my days working in the fishing industry because at one point, we had an executive working for the company, National Sea Products, he was from Campbell Soup. So he would get a really hot product out there, and we’d be selling haddock hand over fist. And he’d come back and goes, “Yeah, we need another 50,000 tons.” It’s like, “Well, we don’t have 50,000 ton.” Thinking, “Well, go get it.” It’s not like tomatoes. It’s not like we can go plant more tomatoes. There ain’t no more fish. Just because you sold it doesn’t mean it exists. So there’s a whole thing about: Do you you have it? So anyway, but I didn’t even see the timeline on it. I assume that didn’t come into effect immediately. It’s coming in over a number of months or years from now.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah, I couldn’t tell you exactly. I don’t know if it was this year, or next year, or what.
Colin White: If you have dental work that you need to get done, get off this podcast, stop listening right now. Call your dentist and get an appointment because it may be really hard to get at some point in the future.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. And bring her or him something nice so that they don’t go crazy and leave Canada.
Colin White: Exactly, exactly.
Josh Sheluk: Anything else, final thoughts?
Colin White: No, I think we picked all of the meat that was to be picked off of that bone and vented some meat, Beyond Meat, there you go. There’s the title of this podcast, Beyond Meat.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah, totally misleading. We won’t even call this Beyond Meat. We’re going to call this Lab Grown Meat. That’s [inaudible 00:28:36].
Colin White: There you go, absolutely. I think that’s all there was to say. And hey, listen, we’re always looking for feedback, if somebody thinks we’ve misconstrued something, or we missed something vital in the budget, I’d love to hear about it. Let’s start a dialogue and have an argument.
Josh Sheluk: Yeah. I’m not going to hold my breath for that one.
Colin White: Thanks, everybody. Reach out if you have any ideas for us for future podcasts. Always looking for good ideas. Thanks for being here.
Josh Sheluk: Thank you.
Colin White: Based on observation, it seems that the time an investor’s most likely to move his or her portfolio to a new advisor is when the old advisor dies. Let us go on record as saying that having a pulse is not a great reason to trust someone with your entire financial future. Stop putting your life in the hands of stillbreathingwealthplanners.com and call us.
Announcer: This information has been prepared by White LeBlanc Wealth Planners, who is a portfolio manager for IA Private Wealth. Opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the portfolio manager only and do not necessarily reflect those of IA Private Wealth Inc. IA Private Wealth Inc. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. IA Private Wealth is a trademark and business name under which IA Private Wealth Inc. operates.
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