Filed in HIRING ARTICLES by on January 3, 2018


Tim Hortons’ Mark Wafer

I heard a great presentation at the OMAA Conference in Stratford, Ontario, in October last year.

When Tim Hortons franchisee Mark Wafer hired Clint Sparling, a young man with Down Syndrome to work at his busy Ontario café, he had no idea the decision would transform his business and inspire a nearly 20-year crusade for inclusive employment.

Wafer says his business success as an inclusive employer at Tim Hortons has led to a second career. He is now advising policy makers and delivering keynote speeches like the one he gave at OMAA. Wafer says he travels extensively to speak to audiences eager to hear all the reasons why hiring people with disabilities is good for business.

The audience at OMAA, almost exclusively chief administrative officers from around Ontario, was enthralled as Wafer related story after story of the successes he has had in hiring people with disabilities.

The story on Sparling was a particularly good one … you can read it HERE

Mayor Michael


“Mark Wafer speaks the language and tells how much his business has improved, how absenteeism has declined, and everything just works better,” says Sarnia Mayor, Mike Bradley. “When you hear that from a business person, it is incredibly powerful.”

The nine-term Mayor of Sarnia, Bradley knows what he is talking about. He has received many awards and recognitions for his contributions to the community, and none are more significant to him than those he has received for being a champion and advocate on behalf of employment for the disabled and intellectually challenged.

“Currently, people who have a disability make up 16% of the Canadian population, making them one of Canada’s largest “minority” groups, with nearly 5.3 million people, equivalent to the combined populations of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.”

About one in eight Canadians have a disability that affects their mobility, agility, hearing, vision or learning. Statistics show that people with disabilities bring to the workplace attributes that make them valued employees. Consider this data from a 2001 Statistics Canada survey:

  • 90% of people with disabilities did as well or better at their jobs than non-disabled co-workers
  • 86% rated average or better in attendance
  • Staff retention was 72% higher among persons with disabilities

The cause is personal for Wafer, who only has 20 per cent hearing, and struggled to keep working until he became a business person.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is now 54 percent, compared to the national average of 6.9 percent, according to Stats Can,” says Wafer.

“Not only is hiring people with disabilities the right thing to do, it can have a dramatic effect on a business’s bottom line.

“In bringing them into the workplace, you’re getting a more loyal employee, you’re getting a person that will stay with you longer, you’re getting a person who is more innovative, more productive and who will work in a safer means.”

The City of Sarnia’s motto is ‘People Serving People’, and Mayor Mike Bradley believes that this statement should include people who have a disability. Mayor Bradley has long been a supporter of hiring people with a disability and a vocal advocate with his “Mayor’s Challenge” – an opportunity for public and private corporations to step up and hire from the talented but under-utilized pool of employees with a disability.

As anyone who is hiring for municipalities today can tell you, the talent market is shrinking. I have been telling anyone who will listen for the past 12 years that the “Boomers” are leaving the room at a furious rate, as more than 1000 reach 65 every day … a phenomenon that will continue for the next 12 years! Workers are getting older, and there are fewer skilled people in the current labour pool to fill jobs as they become available.

If your municipality is like the rest of Canada, more than 62%* of the CEOs in your community say that the talent shortage is already affecting business growth. There is no doubt that a labour shortage exists today and grows larger each day as our population ages. To find the people needed to fill these positions, municipalities must look for talent in every corner in the community, and be more open about whom they will hire. People with disabilities are part of a largely-untapped market – people with a variety of skills at a variety of levels.

The City of Sarnia and Mayor Mike have put together a Tool Kit for hiring people with disabilities.   *The Canadian Employee Relocation Council

Bruce Malcolm

About the Author ()

Bruce's background includes 30+ years of human resource management experience covering all aspects of HR administration with a clear specialty in team building and recruiting. He created and developed the concept of “Ethical Head-Hunting™”. Bruce began his recruiting career in 1971 with Prudential Assurance.

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