Premier Kathleen Wynne says she wants to work with contractors and unions to build Ontario and make the province a better place to live.

“We need to build this province up together,” she told an audience attending a Liberal Party fundraiser in Local 793’s banquet hall in Oakville on June 13.

“I want to work with you, your sector, to solve the province’s problems. We need to build on our strengths and your industry is a big part of that.”

Wynne, just two days removed from passing her first budget as premier, was keynote speaker at the event. More than 250 people attended the fundraiser sponsored by Local 793, including five cabinet ministers, representatives of a number of contractor groups, and union leaders.

The premier received standing ovations both before and after she spoke, signaling that she’s on the right track.

Wynne said her vision is to build up the province and improve infrastructure, especially transit.

The government, she noted, is pumping more than $35 billion into infrastructure over the next three years, with $13.5 billion of that to be invested in the coming year on building and improving roads, transit and municipal projects.

Meanwhile, she told the audience, the government is spending $870 million on the TTC subway line extension to York University and into Vaughan, and millions more on an extension of Highway 407.

“It’s about preparing Ontario for the future,” she said.

Wynne said the government wants to ease congestion facing the Toronto and Hamilton areas and invest in infrastructure projects that have lagged.

The province is also committed to making worksites safer and has taken a number of steps to make that happen, the premier said, including doubling the number of enforcement officers, establishing a chief prevention officer, and developing an occupational health and safety strategy to guide the government in the years ahead.

Wynne said the government is also committed to reviewing the procurement policies of Infrastructure Ontario to ensure the apprenticeship system is being strengthened.

Importantly, she said, the government also wants to get more young people into the trades.

“We need them to have the skills for today’s marketplace.”

Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher provided closing remarks at the event and noted that it’s time for Ontarians to focus on building a better province.

“It’s time for us in Ontario to change the channel and get down to the business of making a better society for our families and our kids,” he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and build the infrastructure that needs to be built.”

Gallagher said Ontarians shouldn’t forget the lessons learned from the debacle of the so-called Common Sense Revolution that came to the province under former Premier Mike Harris.

Harris promised to cut red tape and lower costs for business, he said, but “what we really got at the end of the day was Walkerton and Maple Leaf Foods.”

Healthcare also suffered under the Harris government, noted Gallagher, as hospitals were left without enough nurses to staff the rooms.

Gallagher said the province can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that were made in the past.

He said the Liberals have done more in the last 10 years than the PCs ever did, noting that 18 hospitals are being built in the province by unionized trades.

Gallagher also said the Liberals learn from their mistakes and, despite the cost, cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga when it became clear the people didn’t want them.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, lost a lot more when they gave away Highway 407 in 1999 to a foreign consortium for $3.1 billion, he noted, because it cost the province $104 billion to purchase all the right-of-ways for the thoroughfare.

The consortium that owns the highway made $52 million in the first quarter of 2013 alone, he said.

Also at the event:

  • Local 793 president Joe Redshaw was master of ceremonies.
  • Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn introduced the premier and thanked Local 793 for hosting the event.
  • Joseph Mancinelli, international vice president and regional manager for the Central and Eastern Canada area of LIUNA, thanked Wynne for her remarks.
  • Scotty Newlands, who sings the anthems at Toronto Maple Leaf home games, sang O Canada.
  • Reverend Gill provided the invocation.

Provincial cabinet ministers at the event included:

  • Finance Minister Charles Sousa
  • Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray
  • Economic Development, Trade and Employment Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins
  • Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Linda Jeffrey