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Seven acres of property in the heart of the nation's capital usually implies federal parkland -- unless it is the sprawling estate of a technology millionaire.

Such is the case with Stonecrest, a 15,000-square-foot mansion set on a gated chunk of Rockcliffe owned by Antoine Paquin. He moved to California recently (Selective Disclosure, February, 2003) to nurture a wireless startup and escape the moribund tech investment scene in Ottawa.

Now his fabled waterfront home on McKay Lake is on the market for a staggering $12.8-million -- a price record for the city.

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Keep in mind this is the guy who got $220-million (U.S.) for Philsar Semiconductor a few years ago.

The eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom house features servants' quarters, a conservatory and fitness room, and has been known to comfortably fit up to 400 people for a reception.

Mr. Paquin had the place built after buying two neighbouring properties and bulldozing anything that stood in the way, including the historic home of Princess Juliana of the Netherlands (who later became queen). She and her family lived there from 1940 to 1942 during the Nazi occupation of her homeland. Mr. Paquin and his wife stayed in their home for less than a year before heading south.

From elections

to appointments

Senator John Buchanan, the former Nova Scotia premier, is touting a new corporate board appointment. He is now a director of Plaintree Systems, a beleaguered tech firm that dabbles in wireless products.

"We discussed the challenges and opportunities that face the company," Plaintree president David Watson -- a former Hollywood stuntman -- said in a news release, "and John felt it was an exciting opportunity."

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Exciting times,indeed they will be, if history is any indication. Plaintree received court approval in January for a debt relief program and, within months, announced a special committee to seek opportunities to (wait for it) "enhance shareholder value."

The head of that committee, Jay Richardson, has since quietly resigned.

It also cut its annual meeting to save money and dropped its directors' insurance. One less form for Mr. Buchanan to sign.

The only scintilla of good news for Plaintree came in early May, when its stock price tripled to a whole 9 cents a share on a rosy telecom spending forecast from Mr. Watson.

Clinton observers

watching Belinda

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Former U.S. president Bill Clinton will be in London (not the Ontario one) next weekend for the elusive "Third Way" conference. It's an annual get-together of lefty politicians held by Britain's Tony Blair, fresh from co-producing his very un-leftist sashay into Iraq.

Although Mr. Clinton's agenda includes a meeting with old pal Jean Chrétien (who calls him the Kid), most observers will be on the lookout for Bill's other friend, Belinda Stronach.

Ms. Stronach is not scheduled to give a presentation to the conference on the role of resin bumper covers in fostering progressive governance. However, newspapers around the world have been percolating for weeks with stories about Mr. Clinton's relationship with the Magna chief executive officer.

The two have been spotted together a number of times at Toronto restaurants and the occasional Magna-owned golf course. These new rumours of a possible dalliance likely will give an added spark to sales of Hillary Clinton's heavily promoted book.

CIA puts a lock

on U.S. security

Picking a lock in the name of U.S. national security may sound like a bit of an oxymoron but one shan't question the CIA.

The U.S. spy agency recently posted a job listing on its Web site, looking to hire professional locksmiths. Nearly 200 have reportedly applied.

The want ad offers qualified pickers the opportunity to "work with the best minds in the country while performing a mission critical to our nation." (Recruiters use the same pitch at The Globe and Mail.)

As far as credentials go, the posting explains that alarm-tripping experience is ideal and "knowing how to operate machinery to fabricate lock parts and tools will be beneficial."

The gig involves some travel, but of course they won't tell you to where.

No word on whether duties include helping keyless government employees break into their suburban D.C. homes.

Janis Mackey Frayer is the host of The Close on Report on Business Television, weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. EDT.

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