Mayor’s Challenge

Ontario Disability Employment Network – 2011, A Year in Review

2011 has been a great year that has provided the Ontario Disability Employment Network the ability to make strides in government relationships, engage other partners, and develop new initiatives and opportunities to make a difference for persons with disabilities seeking employment.

The following represents the highlights of our accomplishments over the past year and our commitment to being a unified voice for our membership. This has been achieved through the volunteer efforts of our Board of Directors, a one-day per week Executive Director and, of course, the contributions of our members.

We would like to take this opportunity to again thank our sponsors and patrons. As you may know, the Network has made a conscience decision not to pursue government funding, so that our advocacy efforts are not limited or impeded. The Network’s revenue sources come from membership dues, revenue from events and training sessions and a few organizations that have generously donated financial and in-kind contributions to help the Network continue its valued work.

It is important to the Network that we continue to remain responsive to the issues that matter most to you as we continue to meet the challenges that face us in finding and maintaining employment for people who have a disability. We are interested in getting your feedback along with your direction and support. This will assist the Network to continue to be a success and a strong voice for the employment services sector.

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie

Bob Vansickle
Co- Chair

We have had the opportunity over the past year to develop a number of avenues to spread the message of the Network and also encourage conversation and provide a forum to engage others when issues/concerns have arisen.

• Website – we partnered with eSSENTIAL Accessibility Inc. in May which is a web browser for persons with a disability. This has ensured access to our website is more efficient and effective.
Special acknowledgement goes out to our volunteer contributors, Aerin and Jimmy Guy of SpaceRace! (, who make having a website possible for the Network. Our site is located at
• Twitter – for the past year we have been sharing news and updates on twitter and you can connect with the Network at!/odenetwork
• Facebook – we are up and running on Facebook with a page that will provide opportunities to share information and engage in conversations. We can be found at
• LinkedIn Group – we now have an Ontario Disability Employment Network group where opportunities are available to share resources and converse on topics of interest. Connect with us by going to
• Email – we can be contacted also at

Government Relations
It is essential that our member organizations continue to be able to deliver quality employment services and therefore the Network has been instrumental this year in developing strong and engaging relationships with government.

• In May the Board of Directors of the the Network became aware of the ODSP-ES evaluations that were being conducted by Cathexis Consulting. It came to our attention, however, that a number of our members were concerned about providing contact information for the employers they work with. THE NETWORK broached this issue on behalf of the membership with the consultants and ODSP. As a result, Cathexis took a different approach to gathering information from employers.
M.P.P. Election Strategy

• The Network developed a tool kit that was made available to services providers to assist them in getting the attention of the candidates for the provincial election in October and also provided key messages that targeted access to services including specialized services, greater investment in employment services and an ‘Employment First’ Policy framework.

Social Assistance Review Commission
• On August 25th the Network submitted a report and presented a PowerPoint presentation to the commission which was very well received and this relationship continues with the Commission’s interest in receiving input from the Network as their work unfolds. At the Network’s Conference and AGM that was held in November Leah Myers, Executive Lead, of the SAR Commission presented an overview of the Commission’s findings and dialogue about how we can help more people who have a disability get into the workforce. A number of the recommendations that the Network made at the August 25th meeting were adopted into the Commission’s findings and recommendations.

The Network’s ‘Employment Ontario Task Force’
• As EO deliberates on its ‘disability strategy’ it was apparent that their policy staff had a very superficial understanding of disability, the barriers facing people who have a disability with respect to accessing the labour market or the services and supports they need to be successful. The EO Task Force created two documents which were presented to the policy leads at MTCU – Barriers to Inclusion and Path to Employment.
• Along with these documents, the Network has attended a number of meetings with the ADM of MTCU and her staff team. This has resulted in the slowing down and delays to implementation of the disability strategy as they consider appropriate service options.
• More recently, the Network has been requested by MTCU to act as a reference group to the Employment Ontario team that is responsible for their disability service strategy.

• The Network continues its efforts in building relationships with ODSP and ensuring policy issues are brought to the Ministry’s attention. The Network has met with ODSP Directors Norm Helfand and more recently with the new Interim Director, Patti Redmond. Some of the issues discussed included the conflict of people supported under the DS branch that are working in private businesses without wages or at less than minimum; the inconsistency in back-dating ODSP applications across the province; the impact of modernization on referrals; challenges of the wage verification process; file review processes; and, the need to develop ‘service standards’ for the sector.
• The Network also had direct meetings and correspondence with the ODSP ‘Modernization’ unit.
• The Network continues to gather and promote input from our sector and shares this with MCSS.

Ontario’s Speech from The Throne
It must also be noted that the Network received an invitation by the Honourable David Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in November to attend the Speech from the Throne, which was graciously attended by two of our Board members and Employer Champion League member Mayor Mike Bradley of Sarnia.

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives
This area is extremely important not only to the Board, but also our members. It is vital that we develop opportunities and initiatives that will continue to improve the participation of people with a disability in the workforce. We have found that ‘employer champions’, as recognized through the Network’s Champion’s League, is a vital and effective way to extend our capacity and gain positive results.

Champion’s League
Finding and working with Champions is a tremendous help to moving forward and creating positive changes in the employment situation for people who have a disability.
• At our second annual AGM and Conference we were able to recognize and acknowledge a new Champion, Mr. Dennis Winkler who, as an employer, fit the criteria of someone deserving to be part of the Champion’s League.
• Our past Champion’s League recipients continue to demonstrate the value in hiring people with a disability and the work being done in our sector. The formation of this league has provided a venue to continue to promote and plan initiatives to advance the work being done on behalf of persons with disabilities.
• The Champion’s League continues to receive strong support from Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, David Onley. The League continues to hold strategy meetings with His Honour regularly at his offices at the legislature as well as participate in events geared to promote hiring to the business community in Ontario such as Rotary at Work and others.

Mayor’s Challenge
• Once again this year we have had the support of Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia. His dedication and willingness to speak on behalf of the Network and its membership to other organizations and mayors has continue to provide an awareness and has challenged other communities start “Doing the Right Thing” by including a person with a disability in their workforce.
• Organizations across the province continue to approach their mayors to also put into action the need to respond to the hiring of persons with disabilities.
• A Mayor’s Challenge Toolkit has been made available on our website for Network members.

Other Niche Opportunities
Each of the Champions has continued to explore new opportunities. Joe Hoffer has been instrumental at gaining access to the Ontario Police Services Board and the Law Society of Ontario. We plan to exploit these opportunities in the coming year with strategies that will help bring education to these two major organizations. This will lead to further employment opportunities for people who have a disability.
• Mark Wafer has worked tirelessly to promote inclusive hiring practices through the Rotary at Work program. He has put in countless hours and helped expand this program to four districts of the province and is in discussions with three more. This has directly resulted in over 130 hires with very little staff input on the job development side. This leaves organizations free to use their resources on finding a good match and in follow up supports. The Network is currently in discussions with Community Living Ontario about taking on future responsibility for Rotary at Work under the Network’s umbrella.

Our continued success and the importance of having a voice are integral in getting the attention from the media on issues and perspectives that the Network and our members have. We had a number of opportunities throughout the year to engage the media.
• The continued recognition of the members of the Champion’s League in newspapers and trade publications and their great work with employing persons with a disability was highlighted in local newspapers.
• The Mayor’s Challenge and the ongoing media coverage of Mayor Bradley continues to draw attention to the benefits to hiring persons with a disability.
• The work that went into ensuring that our members and the people we support had a voice during this year’s provincial election.

We believe the Network has been able to work very hard over the last year to provide our members with the many benefits of their membership with us. We are a member-driven organization and our strength is with the membership. Please share all the information that has been provided in this review with other colleagues and encourage others to join Ontario’s only Provincial Network that continues to work on behalf of employment service providers. In addition the Network has been a part of some other initiatives.
• We have been able to provide a voice at committee levels (Canadian Disability Policy Alliance, ODSP Action Coalition, Canadian Association for Supported Employment, Community Living Ontario, JOIN and others).
• Executive Director Joe Dale has done a number of speaking engagements in the Niagara Region, Ottawa, North Bay, Belleville, London, Toronto and others.
• Provide training opportunities to our members. Co-sponsored with Southwest Employment Network ‘Job Developers Roadmap’ in May and then our own AGM and conference ‘Champions for Change: Leadership in Workforce Development’ in November.
• The Network hosted a forum in April – ‘Creating a Common Voice’, which gave regional networks and provincial organization the opportunity to take the first steps in having a unified voice to represented the needs of people who have a disability when it comes to accessing the workforce.
• Received recognition by JVS Toronto as one of their community partners at their 9th Annual Strictly Business Awards Luncheon in May.

What’s Next?
• To continue to build our organization with more membership.
• Provide training and networking opportunities for the sector.
• Build on the great work that has been accomplished through the Mayor’s Challenge and the Champion’s League.
• To continue with strategies for employer engagement.
• Look for other funding opportunities and private fund resources that share the same goals and objectives of the Network to ensure sustainability.
• To build on the work that is being done with government relations and ensure that policy and funding issues do not become the barrier to employment for people who have a disability.
• To continue to be responsive to the needs of our members. Please share what is important to you and how we can help.

From the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network we want to extend our thanks for your continued support in our journey to make positive changes for Ontarians who have a disability and are seeking employment.

We wish you much success in 2012 and look forward to the consolidated effort by this Provincial Network and its members to continue to remove barriers to employment for people who have a disability and our primary objective; to find meaningful and sustainable employment for those we serve.

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ODEN Employer Champion Mayor Mike Bradley wins national “Corporate Social Responsibility Award”

The City of Sarnia was nominated along with two other organizations for the Corporate Social Responsibly Award, a national award. The nomination was for the “Mayor’s Challenge” for public and private corporations “to do the right thing” and hire the disabled and intellectually challenged’ Last night in Toronto the City of Sarnia was named as the winner of the award and the recognition was accepted by Mayor Mike Bradley.

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City of Sarnia Named as Finalist in 2012 HR Summit Awards

Picture Displaying the Media Release from the City of Sarnia

City Manager, Lloyd Fennell, announces that the City of Sarnia has been named as a finalist in the 2012 HR Summit Awards. The City has been nominated in the Corporate Social Responsibility category.

The category in which the City has been nominated recognizes a team, organization or individual who has successfully championed corporate social responsibility in the organization.

The nomination was the result of an article in the HR Reporter publication and recognizes the City’s efforts through the “Mayor’s Challenge” to give students with disabilities summer jobs so that they could gain the experience they need and make money to continue their education.

The City believes that with an unemployment rate of more than 25% for youth with disabilities (which may be closer to 50% if the numbers include those who have ceased looking for work) the situation required action to modify attitudes and provide opportunities.

The other two finalists for this award are United Way Tri-Hospital Campaign Committee – Trillium Health Centre and Human Resources – Hydro Ottawa.

The awards will be presented in Toronto on January 31, 2012.

Fennell stated that “having the City family – Council, department heads and staff – recognized for their efforts and commitment to improving opportunities for youth with disabilities is completely gratifying regardless of the final outcome of the judges’ decision”.

Click here to download PDF of this press release

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Ontario Disability Employment Network: 2010 – The Year in Review


2010 has been an exciting year for the Ontario Disability Employment Network and as we look back and take stock of our efforts, we are pleased with our accomplishments and the strides the Network has made in such a short time since its launch in 2009. We hope you are also pleased with the efforts of your Network and satisfied that your membership dues represent good value.

The following few pages represent the highlights of our activities over the past year. Considering this has all been accomplished due to the volunteer efforts of our Board, a one-day per week Executive Director and the help of our members, we hope you will agree the list is substantial.

On that note we would like to say thank you to all our sponsors and patrons who have made this possible.  To date the Network’s revenue sources have come from membership dues, revenue from events and training sessions and a few generous organizations that have made both financial and in-kind contributions to help sustain the Network and its work.

We want to ensure we remain responsive to those issues that matter most to you as you face the daily challenges of finding and maintaining jobs for people who have a disability and we encourage you to provide feedback to the Network at every opportunity. It is with your direction, support and encouragement that the Network will continue to be successful.

Joe Dale
Executive Director

Debbi Soucie

Bob Vansickle

Government Relations

Key to ensuring our member organizations are able to deliver quality employment services in a sustainable manner is that we continue our work with government. Over the past year the Network has met and corresponded with ODSP-ES, the MCSS Modernization Unit, Employment Ontario and Service Canada.

In the 4th quarter of the year the Board established a formal Government Relations Committee with a Board chair along with 2 task forces to address issues related to the key funding programs ODSP and Employment Ontario.


  • Meetings with Norm Helfand and Marian Shull regarding transition of ESS positions to generic Case Workers, redefining competitive employment, ODSP payments to agencies, retention payments and baseline model, and volunteering in the private sector

MCSS Modernization Initiative

  • Meeting and correspondence with Peggy Black of the Modernization Unit with respect to the roll out of the modernization initiative, regulatory requirements related to the administration of ODSP funded services and training for Case Workers.

MTCU/Employment Ontario

  • Employment Ontario Task Force putting together a provincial coalition to develop strategies to ensure that specialized services are available for people who have a disability in the new EO model.
  • Created a model for Employment Ontario that shows how specialized services can be maintained while achieving Employment Ontario’s primary goals
  • Several meetings and correspondence with MTCU staff including ADM Laurie LeBlanc

Service Canada

  • Initial meetings with Davin Kamino of Service Canada were held in December 2010 to discuss the Opportunities Fund, Case Management and Assessment services.

Provincial Ministry of Finance

  • The Network has requested standing on the panel for the pre-budget consultations to be held this March.  No response at the time of this report.

Employer Engagement and Marketing Initiatives

Engaging employers who are willing to help us achieve our goals is vital to improving the participation rates of people who have a disability in the workforce. The Ontario Disability Employment Network has made several advancements in this area.

Mayor’s Challenge

  • Thanks in large part to Sarnia Mayor, Mike Bradley, employment service providers have come to realize that their municipal governments are large, prospective employers and should be challenged to set an example by ‘Doing the Right Thing’ and including disability in their diversity hiring processes.
  • Organizations across the province have been systematically approaching their mayors seeking the same kind of leadership.
  • The Network, together with Mayor Bradley has provided support and council to both organizations and local mayors about how to put this in action.
  • A Mayor’s Challenge toolkit has been developed and is available on-line for Network members.
  • Currently 10 Mayors and their municipalities have come on board with a commitment to hire people who have a disability in their municipal workforce as a direct result of the Mayor’s Challenge.

Champion’s League

  • The first annual Champion’s League awards were launched at the Network’s first annual conference and AGM in October.
  • Three prominent Champions were recognized with awards – Mike Bradley, Mayor of Sarnia; Joe Hoffer, Cohen Highley LLP; and, Mark Wafer, Megleen Inc. aka Tim Hortons
  • While recognition is important the real story here is in the formation of the Champion’s League itself. The awards recognize employers who: ‘lead by example’ as demonstrated through their hiring practices; have through their career and business relationships promoted the hiring of people who have a disability to others; and, (most importantly) have made a commitment to continue to help us promote the hiring of people who have a disability in the years to come.

The Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario

  • These employer engagement strategies have not gone unnoticed and Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor has become an advocate, supporter and promoter of both the Mayor’s Challenge and the Champion’s League.
  • Several meetings have taken place with the Lieutenant Governor to look at how we can strategically utilize these employer engagement initiatives to advance our employment agenda and continue to build the League.


Some of the Network’s success can be measured by the media that is attracted to the issues and perspectives of the Network and its members. While the Network has not had a specific media strategy, there has been significant media response to our efforts and initiatives.

  • Response to the London Free press article re comment made by advice columnist that was also posted in the Toronto and Winnipeg Sun and
  • A series of articles were written by the Executive Director and published. This series, Disability in the workplace has been picked up and published in a variety of Newsletters and web sites around the province
  • Radio Interview with a local Windsor radio station about the Network
  • Article in The Intelligencer
  • Article in Northumberland News
  • Articles regarding the Mayor’s Challenge in the North Bay Nugget and many other community newspapers

The Network also established a Communications Committee this past year. While much of the committee’s initial efforts has been directed at creating our web site, this committee will also tackle the broader communications issues in the future.


While we believe all of the work presented thus far benefits our members, there have been some additional initiatives that are directed specifically at members.

  • Built and launched a brand new, interactive web site choc full of information, resources and a way to connect with your colleagues. If you haven’t visited the website recently we encourage you to do so.
  • Special thanks to the volunteer contributions of Aerin and Jimmy Guy of Space Race who have made this possible.

Training Events and Resources

  • Over the past year we have had two key training events – Networking in the North and our first annual conference, Champions for Change.
  • Evaluations for both events were very positive and the message is we need to do more training and to locate events in various parts of the province.
  • At the time of writing, the Network is working on a grant proposal to develop some new marketing materials that will be available to members in the new-year.

New Members

  • The Ontario Disability Employment Network is a member-driven organization. It is grass routs and built on the strengths of its members. We can’t do any of this without you.
  • This year the Network has grown to 64 paid members.
  • Be sure to share this information with your colleagues and encourage others to join Ontario’s only Provincial Network that works on behalf of employment service providers with the goal of eliminating barriers to employment faced by people who have a disability.

Looking Ahead

  • Employment networking day – How do we create a provincial voice to effect change?
  • Ensuring growth and sustainability for the network through foundations and other private funding sources that share the objectives and goals of the Network
  • Continue with our Government Relations work
  • Building on our employer engagement strategies including the Champion’s League and Mayor’s Challenge
  • Provide training and networking opportunities for the sector
  • Continue to build our on-line community and networking opportunities
  • Continue to build our membership base
  • Ensure we remain responsive to the needs of the members. Let us know what we can do for you!

In Closing

These are challenging and exciting times for employment service providers. It has been a long time since we have had a consolidated and effective Provincial Network that deals specifically with the issues related to employment for people who have a disability.

The landscape of government policy and funding is changing rapidly and while we need to be prepared for these changes and ensure we are able to respond to them, we can’t lose sight of our primary objective. That is to find meaningful and sustainable employment for those we serve.

From the Board of Directors of the Ontario Disability Employment Network we wish you every success in the coming year.

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