Unionized trades like the Operating Engineers are important to the future prosperity of Ontario, provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Glen Murray told a gathering of Liberal party faithful at a fund-raiser May 9 in Local 793’s banquet hall in Oakville.

The Toronto Centre MPP also lauded the work being done by Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher and the Operating Engineers in standing up for the rights of workers.

He noted it’s important to fight against Conservative leader Tim Hudak and his proposal for a right-to-work state.

The fund-raiser was for Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn. Murray was keynote speaker at the event.

Murray touched on a number of topics during his remarks, one being that unionized contractors must compete against foreign consortiums that don’t reinvest in the province when they are bidding on projects put up for public tender by Infrastructure Ontario.

On apprenticeships, he noted that unions have a “remarkable record” of getting people to compete training.

Indeed, a study recently released by the Ontario Construction Secretariat shows that apprentices who are trained in union-management training centres are more likely to complete their training, than are apprentices who receive their training in other facilities.

On the economy, Murray said the provincial Liberals have managed to create jobs despite the fact that Ontario has just weathered one of the worst recessions ever.

The province lost 243,000 jobs when the recession hit, he said, but the government has delivered and created 400,000 jobs since then, and invested $13 billion in new infrastructure.

Although the government was criticized for investing in GM and Chrysler, he noted that it was worth it as Ontario’s auto sector is now the largest in North America.

“When Hudak and (Andrea) Horwath say we have a crisis in the manufacturing sector it’s a lie,” he said, as the sector is doing well.

Meanwhile, Murray said, the construction industry is “rocking” and most of the trades are working.

Oakville MPP Flynn said the government could have shut down projects after the recession, but chose to invest in infrastructure projects like the Oakville hospital and widening of the QEW.

The government kept people working and will continue to invest in infrastructure, he said, something the construction industry will be glad to hear.

Afterwards, Joe Dowdall, the union’s apprenticeship training co-ordinator, presented Murray with a hardhat, construction vest and miniature model of a rotary drill rig. Dowdall made the presentation to Murray on behalf of Local 793 business manager Gallagher.

Dowdall thanked Murray for committing to mandatory training for rotary drill rig operators. Gallagher and the union had lobbied for mandatory training after a drill rig accident at a construction site in Toronto on Oct. 11, 2011 that resulted in the death of Local 793 apprentice Kyle Knox.

Murray announced the mandatory training at a Provincial Building and Construction Trades Council of Ontario meeting last fall.