The work of Local 793 and the Operating Engineers was praised by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn at the 56th Canadian Conference of the International Union of Operating Engineers held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Premier Wynne said the local was “very instrumental” in convincing Ontarians that the Liberals were the right party in the spring provincial election.

“You supported us in every area of the province,” she said.

Wynne also acknowledged the work that the Operating Engineers do in training apprentices and working with First Nations communities, something that’s top of mind as she deals with Ottawa over the problems faced by Aboriginal youth in northern Ontario.

Labour Minister Flynn, who is MPP for Oakville, said Local 793 has had a tremendous impact on the community – as well as on an orphanage in Kenya thousands of miles away.

He told the audience that a few years back he committed to getting a bulldozer to an orphanage in Kenya and spoke to Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher about the idea.

Just three minutes into a presentation, Gallagher and the union officers said they would do it, he recalled. The union then went about raising money to send the bulldozer to Kenya.

Meanwhile, Flynn noted, the Operating Engineers have given a lot back to the community.

“You continue to build on the generations of hard work that make the province what it is.”

The premier and labour minister both spoke about the importance of unions in building Ontario and the intention of the Liberals to invest in infrastructure.

Premier Wynne said the Conservatives were undermining organized labour in the last provincial election and unions had to band together to put a stop to it.

“I believe in organized labour and the gains they have made over the decades,” she noted.

Wynne said the province will be investing $130 billion into Ontario’s aging infrastructure over the next 10 years and she hopes the federal government will also step up to the plate.

“Since 2003 we have been catching up and our commitment is we will continue to make those investments.”

Labour Minister Flynn said while investing in infrastructure, the province is also committed to ensuring that workers go home from work safely every day.

He noted there’s a lot more work to be done to bring the construction fatality rate to zero and, in order to accomplish that, the province needs a mix of enforcement and prevention.

Flynn also told the audience that the province is still committed to making traning mandatory for operators of rotary drill rigs.

He said substantial progress has been made in developing a standard and the province is continuing to consult with Local 793 on the issue.

“It is my commitment to you that we will push this over the finish line in a way that you can be proud of.”