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Teach-in

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Next week, the Leg committee rooms will be a-hummin' again as the teachers' pension issue goes to public hearings. There are nearly 400 teachers in the queue waiting to speak, and I expect most will vent about the two-thirds cost of living pension increase they're being offered. Not enough, they say, even though it would double their COLA hike this year and even though current and former teachers voted to accept it. The province also backfilled their pension liability by $1.5 billion, which looks none too good on the province's debt line.There was a letter to the editor recently complaining about the fact that the hearings are being held in the evening - an unsafe time for seniors to be out and about downtown and an inconvenient time to take the bus. That will be the kindest and most reasonable argument I expect to hear on Monday.The retired teachers are the single most relentless and implacable lobby group I've encountered in my brief time at the legislature. The Taxpayers Federation could take a lesson. The teachers make large and frequent appearances in the House gallery, and every reporter who touches the pension issue gets a mini-avalanche of e-mails and calls and letters to the editor - some quite rude and strident.I recall getting geeked up on the issue when I first arrived here, thinking Teachergate could be a great story, the injustice of our noble educators spending their retirement days in poverty. My interest waned after I started calling some retired teachers. In Florida.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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