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Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]



     Order. We're now in the public portion of the 39th meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We have with us today a number of witnesses on the votes on the supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17.
    We have with us, first of all, the Honourable Geoff Regan, the Speaker of the House of Commons; Mr. Mark Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House of Commons; Mike O'Beirne, acting director and officer in charge of operations, Parliamentary Protective Service; Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer of the House of Commons; and, Sloane Mask, deputy chief financial officer, Parliamentary Protective Service.
    We'll shortly turn the floor over to the Speaker for his comments. I believe you all have a copy of of those comments in front of you. As per what was indicated to me informally by the members of the committee prior to our gavelling in the meeting, there seems to be a desire to have an informal nature to the meeting rather than follow the typical standard rounds of questioning. I'll entertain a speakers list to take questions in whatever order they come in from members. Obviously, I will police to some degree. If you seem to be getting long-winded, I may police and ask you to turn the floor to one of your colleagues, but I'm sure that won't happen to any of you.
    I'll now turn the floor over to the Speaker for his opening remarks, and then we'll move to questions.
     Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
    “Police”: that's an interesting word to use.
    Voices: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Geoff Regan: It's a pleasure to be back before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to present the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year 2016-17. I'm also pleased to have been invited to present the supplementary estimates (B) on behalf of the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS, as I will call it.
    Mr. Chairman, you have mentioned the people who are with me here at the table. I thank you for that.


    With me are members of House administration's executive management team: Stéphan Aubé, chief financial officer; Philippe Dufresne, law clerk and parliamentary counsel; André Gagnon, acting deputy clerk; Benoit Giroux, director general of parliamentary precinct operations; Patrick McDonnell, deputy sergeant-at-arms and corporate security officer; as well as Pierre Parent, chief human resources officer.


    Let me begin by noting that all of the items included in the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) have been presented to and approved by the Board of Internal Economy. Together, this represents an increase of $22,624,714 in funding levels for fiscal year 2016-17.
    To facilitate our discussions today, we prepared a handout outlining the line items that were included in the supplementary estimates (B). You'll be glad to hear that I won't read it word for word.


    Having served as a member of this committee in the past, I recall a distinct preference for brevity, and so I will provide what I hope is a quick overview of each of the five line items under discussion, in the order that they are presented in the handout. This will leave more time for questions later.
    The items include funding for: the carry-forward of the operating budget; security enhancements; renewal of the constituency communications network services, or CCN as we call it; committee activities; and, members' sessional allowances and additional salaries.


    We're seeking a carry-forward in the amount of approximately $13.7 million through the 2016-17 supplementary estimates (B).
     This request corresponds to the board's carry-forward policy, a policy that's been in place since 1995. The policy allows members of Parliament, House officers, and the House administration to carry forward unspent funds from one fiscal year to the next, up to a maximum of 5% of operating budgets in their main estimates.
    The ability to carry funds forward increases our budgetary flexibility, reduces the pressure to spend at the year-end, and provides and incentive for those who underspend their budgets. In short, it helps us better manage our finances.


    This carry-forward practice is also in place across all federal government departments. However, unlike those departments, the House of Commons must seek such carryforward funding through its supplementary estimates, and not from Treasury Board.
    The funding will be allocated to budgets for members, House officers and the House administration. Notably, the House administration's allotment will be used to fund priority areas such as investments that support the administration's strategic plan, as well as those that ensure the timely replacement of much-needed IT infrastructure.



     With respect to security, we remain committed to our collective safety and that of the parliamentary precinct. To that end, we have sought temporary funding of $4.2 million for fiscal year 2016-17 as reflected in our next line item. This funding supports the House of Commons Corporate Security Office, or CSO, which works closely with its colleagues in the PPS.
     The CSO has been facing increased demands for its services, including in the areas of accreditation, security clearance, event and visitor access services, constituency security, and threat and risk assessment. Indeed, the CSO's security advice, guidance, and training remain in high demand. As well, we're asking for more from the office.


    For example, in response to a number of security assessments, including the independent assessment requested in 2014 by the previous speaker, a number of initiatives to enhance our security are under way.
    Additional funding is helping to build on these, including measures to improve the constituency office security program, install self-registration kiosks for visitors, and modernize the security camera system.


    A moment ago, I mentioned members' constituency offices within the context of security. We understand that access to state-of-the-art communications for members is a priority, whether they're in Ottawa or back in their constituency offices. That's why we've have sought a temporary increase of $2.1 million under supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year, which is item 3 in the handout.
    The additional funding is helping to support the replacement of the current constituency communications network, or CCN, with what I think we aptly call the “enhanced constituency connectivity service”, or ECCS. This new Internet-based service will provide members with a seamless and always-connected experience, no matter the location of their constituency office.


    The enhanced constituency connectivity service, or ECCS, is designed to equal the excellent service that members already receive in their Hill offices, by providing them and their staff with secure access to the parliamentary precinct network as well as Internet connectivity and other WiFi services, from coast to coast to coast.


    Under item 4, committee activities—and not just this committee, obviously—you will note our request for a temporary increase of $1.5 million for fiscal year 2016-17. This increase is due to a renewed demand by many of the 24 standing committees to engage with Canadians who live outside of the national capital region, as well as the requirement to support the work of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
     More specifically, temporary funding for committees under the global committee envelope was increased by $800,000 in 2016-17. Again, this reflects the budget requirements of the increased committee activities outside the national capital region, including enhanced consultations. An additional $678,000 was provided to fund the work of the then newly created Special Committee on Electoral Reform.


    It is my understanding that the experience so far demonstrates that there is public demand for such increased consultation. That said, let me emphasize that we continue to allocate funds for committee activities with the utmost rigour. For instance, measures have been taken to reduce the costs of committee travel, including by limiting the number of members travelling with each committee and ensuring that only essential staff accompany the committee for meetings outside of Ottawa.



    That brings me to the final line item in your handout, in the amount of $1.1 million for fiscal year 2016-17 and subsequent years. This amount represents an increase to salaries for members, House officers, the Speaker and other presiding officers: a 1.8% increase to members' annual sessional allowances and additional salaries over the previous year. The increase, which was approved by the Board of Internal Economy, took effect on April 1.


    As you know, members' sessional allowances and other additional salaries are statutory under the Parliament of Canada Act. Such increases are based on an index published by Employment and Social Development Canada and reflect the average percentage increase in base-rate wages for a calendar year in Canada resulting from major settlements negotiated in the private sector.
    Now let me turn my attention to parliamentary protective service, the PPS. Since its creation, on June 23, 2015, PPS has been working diligently to ensure operational excellence through the execution of seamless service delivery in support of its physical security mandate throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
    Efforts to enhance operational excellence through a series of resource optimization, coordination and professionalization initiatives remain ongoing.


     I'll now provide you with an overview of supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17, which total $7.1 million, including a total voted budgetary requirement of $6.7 million and a statutory budget component of $367,000 for the employee benefits plan. Please note that this request represents unfunded requirements to support new and ongoing initiatives, and PPS was able to reallocate funding within an existing budgetary envelope to defray a portion of the total cost of the requirements.
     PPS is requesting $1.7 million in funding from its 2015-16 operational budget carry-forward. This funding, in addition to the $3.1 million in additional funding that's being requested, will be used for a series of security enhancement projects. These projects are intended to address a significant number of the recommendations stemming from the reviews of the events of October 22, 2014, and to stabilize a protective posture in response to the requirements associated with the long-term vision and plan.
    To further the integration and realize the benefits on interoperability, PPS is requesting $655,000 to support the consolidation of the PPS operational and operational support employees into two distinct facilities. This consolidation will enable PPS to secure sufficient office space for its current FTE base, ensure the necessary informatics are in place to support operations, streamline the quartermaster processes, facilitate the process of integrated briefings and resource deployment, and continue to work towards the creation of a unique PPS culture.


    Over the past several months, a series of reviews were conducted to make the best use of our professional resources while exercising resource stewardship in support of our overall operations. To that end, PPS is seeking $445,000 to support resource optimization initiatives. As a result of this investment, PPS will be realizing a $2.5-million return on the investment/savings, in the coming fiscal years.


     This funding will also be used to defray some of the costs incurred in coordinating the address to Parliament by the President of the United States of America, and I'm referring to the address that already occurred, just so nobody thinks that we have something planned. I don't know about that. We'll see.



    PPS remains committed to preserving the openness and accessibility of Parliament, while maintaining the responsive and appropriate public safety and security measures that are necessary today, given the evolution of our domestic and international threat environment.
    As always, PPS is proud to serve and protect, and operational and employee excellence remain its highest priority.


     If its accomplishments over the past 18 months are any indication, PPS is well prepared to address the current global reality, as well as any future challenges to the physical safety and security of the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
    You will be pleased to hear that this now concludes my overview of the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17 as well as those for PPS.
    Along with the staff members present, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
    Thank you.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
    We have about 10 minutes remaining in what was time scheduled for the meeting. At this point, I have three speakers who have indicated that they would like to be on the list: Mr. Graham, Ms. Vandenbeld, and Mr. Christopherson.
     I'm trying to get a sense of what others would like to do. Maybe we'll ask our guest if it is possible to stay just a little longer if need be. Would that be troublesome?
    I have something at 12:15, but I think I can manage to be a few minutes late for that and not be too late.
    A few more minutes? Okay. Let's see how it goes. It looks as if we may be able to accomplish this if you can stay for just a few more minutes. If you have to go, just let us know.
    At this point, I have Mr. Graham. Again, because we do have I think four of you so far, try to keep the questions as brief as you can so the answers can be sufficient.
    I can speak fast if you like, Mr. Chair.
    The very first question I have is about understanding the million and a half dollars you want for committees. What services are provided by PPS to committees when they're travelling. They don't travel with an officer, so in general terms what are they doing?
    I don't believe that's for PPS. The committee funding is a different thing.
    Mr. David de Burgh Graham: I see.
    Hon. Geoff Regan: Am I correct, Marc?
    Yes, but when committees are travelling, if security risks are identified, we coordinate with local police forces and, if needed, hire locally for those purposes.
    The funding I was referring to—
    Mr. David de Burgh Graham: It's general.
    Hon. Geoff Regan: —is general funding. The PPS is a different section.
     I was referring to the increased activity of committees. We've seen it not only with more travelling, but also with more activities nightly on the Hill this year for some reason.
    I have one other quick question. How does the financial integration for PPS work between the House of Commons and Senate?
    Dan, can you tell us?
    Yes. At this point, they are two different entities. They get their own funding and their own votes for that. We work very closely together to make sure there is no overlap and that any gaps are addressed, but at this point there are two different entities and two different budgets that need to be managed separately.
    That means that for the area they look after, that's their cost, and for the area we look after, it's our cost.
    That's right.
    We share proportionally any common costs. Is that right?
    When PPS was set up, obviously the House contributed more personnel and more money to the setting up of PPS than did the Senate, because we had a bigger security service. But now that doesn't really matter anymore. It's one service with separate institutions and separate votes in estimates.
    Finally, is there any financial exchange between the RCMP and PPS?
    I don't think so. Is there any transfer of funds from...?
    The RCMP put money into PPS as well. The complement of RCMP officers that was on the Hill became part of PPS.
    But that was to pay for the RCMP officers who are here.
    Okay. Thank you.
     Because of time, I'll defer.
    Thank you, Mr. Graham.
    Ms. Vandenbeld.
    Thank you for a thorough presentation, Mr. Speaker.
    My question is about the part you mentioned in terms of the creation of a unique PPS culture. Obviously, in terms of security, this place is not the same doing security in any other federal building. This is a place of the people. It is a place that belongs to Canadians and therefore needs to be open to Canadians, and that needs to be weighed in terms of the security of those who work in this place but also in terms of accessibility.
     I don't see anything here in terms of training for things such as cultural sensitivity. In this committee, in one of our previous reports, we recommended a gender-based safety audit. I'm not seeing anything on that or other gender awareness, or aboriginal reconciliation, or the fact that this is a very different place. I understood in some informal conversations that some consideration was being given to having the protective services officers undergo this kind of cultural awareness training.


     Mr. O'Beirne would be happy to address that.
    Following the creation of the PPS in June 2015, our efforts were certainly geared towards integrating at every possible turn and every possible opportunity. That has certainly developed in the training area. We developed an integrated training unit, in the very first instance, made up of our highly trained personnel who came from the three partners. With that, we of course identified the need to standardize the training across the PPS and to develop a training regimen.
     To that end, a recruit program training course was developed. As for what that is, it's the new PPS standard. We've identified the needs of the precinct, the grounds, the Senate, the House of Commons, and the Library of Parliament, and we've standardized training to that end. Included in that, certainly, is the tactical or more kinetic training that one would expect from a security entity.
     However, to respond to your question, ma'am, certainly efforts are under way right now to develop the cultural training and diversity training within the RP, our recruit program. We are looking at launching our third course, RP3, in the new year, and we are very proud of that. Included in that as well as a follow-up is certainly training with respect to the privileges and immunities of parliamentarians and then of course tying that into your original point about balancing the needs of security with the requirement of having an open and accessible Parliament.
    Thank you. That's encouraging.
    Next we have Mr. Christopherson.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    It's a shame that we didn't get a chance to finish all of our PPS briefings before we did this. I'm not suggesting any skulduggery; it's just unfortunate that we weren't able to get the horse in front of the cart.
    However, be that as it may, there has been some reference to this, Speaker, in some of your comments, but could you again touch on the issue of the integration between the two sides, the Senate and the Commons? What parts of that integration still remain to be done? I know that you've touched on it, but in summary, there were still some outstanding issues, I believe, in terms of that transition into one. Were there two collective agreements? There were some aspects where it is still not uniformly seamless yet. I wonder if you could touch on those for me.
    Do you want to cover that?
    Thank you.
    You are correct. When the PPS was created and the Senate security, the House of Commons security, and the RCMP component came together, with that came two associations and one union, and those remain in place at this time. We're mindful of that as we move forward. However, we've put forth a motion to the PSLRB to look at merging into one. We see that as an operational benefit and as an operational requirement for moving various initiatives forward.
    However, I will finish by saying, as I mentioned earlier, that we've concentrated our efforts on the integration of all partners at every turn. That includes our training unit, as I mentioned, and our integrated planning unit. If I can use an analogy, prior to the PPS, every entity was planning events with 33% of the information and 33% of the operation. We've eliminated all of that with an integrated planning unit that looks after everything that may happen on the Hill from a security perspective. Then, of course, there is an integrated intelligence unit, an intelligence-led entity. That assists us as well.
    Certainly, that is awaiting disposition in front of the PSLRB, but we've put forth that motion.


     Good. Thank you.
    Next is members' access. I've raised this on numerous occasions in numerous Parliaments. What I'm seeking is some assurance, on the record, ahead of time, that indeed there has been a higher recognition of the priority of ensuring that you plan for members getting to Centre Block, rather than finding situations where all of a sudden the green bus has to be stopped. I've seen members who have some short-term impairment having to walk across the front lawn because there was no preparation.
    It's going to happen again. If it doesn't, I'll be the first one to sing alleluia at the end of this term, but I suspect it's going to come. What I'd like to hear up front, right now, before any events happen, is that this is being recognized as the priority that it should be, that we're not going to have incidents—other than something that happens that wasn't planned—and that there's going to be much better planning than there has been in the past for ensuring this, whether it's the President of the United States, the Pope, or whomever. Their security is an absolute priority, but there's also a constitutional priority to ensure that members can get to the House.
     I would like to hear now, ahead of time, before we have any more visits, that this priority is being considered and recognized, and that those plans will be in place.
    Just before you respond, Mr. Speaker, we're at 12:17 now. I have two other members on the list following this. Would you have the time to stay for those two, do you think, if we can keep them brief?
    I think so.
    Okay. We will do that. That's where I'll stop the list.
    I have one more after this, and I'll keep it brief, Chair.
    Okay. If you'll keep it very brief, that's fine.
    I will.
    Do you want to go ahead with your response, Mr. Speaker?
    Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and through you to Mr. Christopherson, I want to assure you that I consider it a high priority that the privileges of members be respected at all times. Obviously, it's about their ability to do their work on behalf of their constituents. So many of the services we provide on Parliament Hill, that the House provides, are for that purpose, and that's why it's important that they be able to get around the Hill, to get to the House, and to get to Centre Block or back to their offices when need be. That has to be considered a priority at all times, so when there are visits, that needs to be part of the planning process.
    Mr. David Christopherson: Exactly.
    Hon. Geoff Regan: I'd love to be able to say to you and to promise you that this kind of thing will never happen again, the kind of thing you describe. That probably would be an unwise promise for me to make, but I would certainly hope we wouldn't see that kind of problem. At the same time, we will have, I'm sure, visitors from time to time and security issues involved. As you point out, the key thing is to plan for those and to try to do as much as we can to avoid problems for members.
    I'm going to ask Mr. O'Beirne to reinforce my message.
    That would be great. Thank you.
    Is there anything you want to add?
    Certainly, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.
    We incorporate measures and contingency plans into our operational plans at every opportunity. We do plan that. I can give you my assurances that they are incorporated into our planning cycle and our preparatory phases. When there is a large event, certainly, there are always the unforseen issues that may pop up, but I can assure you that we give them our full attention. If any issues do come up, they're rectified as quickly as possible.
    That's great. Thank you. That's what I was seeking, and I appreciate that. I realize, Speaker, that there are no guarantees. Things can happen, but you can appreciate—and I know you're very sensitive to these things—that it gets frustrating when you've been around here long enough to see that it keeps happening over and over.
    Thanks very much to both of you. I'd love it if we didn't have to revisit this. That would be great.
    The last question is a hypothetical. If a member has personal security concerns and they approach PPS, what can they reasonably expect from PPS in terms of a response, just in general? Is it only security here on the Hill and when you're in your constituency office....


    The first thing is that the route for a member to take is actually not to approach the PPS. It is to approach the Corporate Security Office led by the Sergeant-at-Arms.
    Okay, and if one does that...?
    If one does that, then I suppose it depends on whether the security measures or issues that the member is concerned about are on or off the Hill. If they're off the Hill and they relate to the work of the member, then I would expect the CSO to clearly communicate with or contact those police services that would be responsible in whatever area that was.
     Let's say it's a constituency office. In that case, maybe it's a local police service in the town or city that the person is in that you want to consult to make sure that the services there are watching things and are aware of the concern that's raised. In each case, though, they have to decide what are the reasonable steps to take, in the same way that there are threat assessments done at various times in relation to public officials. If there is a significant threat, then appropriate measures are taken. That's what I would anticipate.
    Am I off base in any way, Mike?
     No, Mr. Speaker. That's fine.
    Is there anything else that I should have added but didn't?
    No. Certainly, I won't speak for the CSO, but once those linkages are made with the police of the jurisdiction, then, of course, the threat-risk assessment is effected and the measures are put into place.
    I should have probably turned to Pat, from the Sergeant-at-Arms office. I could, if you'd like.
    No, that's fine. It was a hypothetical. I wanted to get it on the record. Thank you.
     Thanks, Chair. I'm good.
    Thank you. We have two more members to hear from.
    We'll ask that you respect the Speaker's time and keep your questions as brief as possible.
    Ms. Petitpas Taylor is next, and then Mr. Schmale.
    Thank you so much, all of you, for being here today.
    Very briefly, on your budget handout—I recognize that it's very brief—my question is, do we have a breakdown of overtime for our PPS people? The reason I ask is that we're always trying to promote wellness and workplace balance, and I'm wondering what that looks like when it comes to our PPS personnel.
    Hon. Geoff Regan: Go ahead, Mike.
    Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
    Perhaps I can speak to that. Certainly, the issue of overtime has been at the forefront of our considerations. There are several reasons for that. Following the events of October 22, there were some changes in postures that were effected. This resulted in positions that had not been in place prior to that, so they resulted in an overtime position.
     These have carried through following June 23, 2015. Following the creation of the PPS, the partners that came together were operational in nature, and that positioned the PPS to have to create its infrastructure. What I mean by that is its HR support and the financial support needed to permit the entity to continue its transition.
    There have been some unbudgeted special events. One was the visit by the President of the United States. As well, certainly, one of the impacts is that we have to be very responsive to the LTVP projects that are presented. The challenge, of course, is to keep our hiring and retention mechanisms in pace with that. We're certainly mindful of 2018 and the LTVP projects that are going to be presented at that time, and we are looking at resourcing in a way to respond to that.
     That said, your point about employee wellness is certainly at the forefront of our consideration as well. We're very mindful of that. To that end, we've incorporated some mechanisms in the PPS for employee wellness, for both physical and mental health. Some of them are mental health awareness initiatives. Others are physical health initiatives. We've created a position that oversees that development within the PPS.


    Do we have a breakdown, though, of how much overtime we've incurred?
    For the breakdown, perhaps I'll turn to my colleague.
    This year, we've incurred about $2 million in overtime costs. This is very comparable with the results under the previous tenure of the Senate, House, and RCMP.
    As Mike and Mr. Speaker have both mentioned, the 42nd session of Parliament has been quite a hectic session. We have had some additional overtime incurred in order to be able to support the events and ensure the safety and security of all our guests. Going forward, we're very mindful, as the Canada 150 celebrations are being launched, of the need to keep a close eye on overtime and employee wellness, and certainly that is a priority.
    Thank you.
    Our final question today will come from Mr. Schmale.
    I have two quick ones.
     First, a few months ago, we did a tour of the West Block construction, and part of that tour included the new chamber. What we noticed—and it has been brought up at this committee before—is that there is a series of windows that look right down onto this new chamber. Obviously, if someone wanted to do harm, they'd be in an elevated position, and they'd have clear access to all parliamentarians.
     I'm looking for a comment, but if you don't have one, maybe you could put that on your radar as an ongoing concern that has been raised here before. We are—or at least I am—a little wary. This is something that we all noticed.
     You'd be interested to know that the windows will be opaque, which should help somewhat.
    Theoretically, somebody could break a window, obviously, but then you'd hear it and people would react.
     Obviously, first of all, we don't want anybody who's a threat getting into the building. That's why we have the security systems we have and which we will have over there. I think what's better is to take what you're saying as a comment and a suggestion. Thank you.
    The second one, really quickly, is under security enhancements. You sought “temporary funding of $4.2 million” for the next fiscal year and you say, “The CSO has been facing increased demands for its services, including in the areas of accreditation, security clearance, events, and visitor access services...”. Is that because security is a little more enhanced? Is that where this is coming from? How does that compare to previous years? I'm assuming that everyone had to go through some sort of clearance to get into the building before now.
    I'm going to ask the clerk to answer that.
    Essentially, Mr. Schmale, this comes from the set-up of PPS a little over a year ago. At that time, it had to be done fairly quickly, so very quick decisions were made as to which unit would go and which unit would stay and so on. After that has all shaken out, we're now in a situation where we can properly assess the needs on both sides.
     What we discovered on the Corporate Security Office side was that basically we'd given too much away. We need to bring up those levels of resources, especially for accreditation, but there are other areas as well where it's insufficient, plus, demand has gone way up. We're more vigilant in terms of looking at access. All of that combined resulted in a greater need for resources.
    Thank you very much.
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for your flexibility with your time.
    I will dismiss our witnesses now. Thanks to all of you for being here, and for your presentation and your responses.
    Thank you.
    I'll ask members to remain seated while our witnesses dismiss themselves, because there are some questions we will have to put to dispose of the supplementary estimates we're studying today. While that's happening, I will call those questions with regard to the supplementary estimates.

Vote 1b—Program expenditures..........$19,102,544
    (Vote 1b agreed to)

Vote 1b—Program expenditures..........$6,691,090
    (Vote 1b agreed to)
    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Blake Richards): Shall the chair report the votes of the supplementary estimates (B) to the House?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Vice-Chair (Mr. Blake Richards): Thank you, committee members.
    Unless there is any other business, I would call the meeting adjourned.
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