© Copyright 2006 Rogers Publishing Ltd. The following article first appeared in the March 2006 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.
Editorial: Thanks Jim
Farewell to the benefits industry’s very own Kris Kringle.
By Don Bisch

If there was anyone who came close to being the Santa Claus of the Canadian benefits industry, it was Jim Norton, who died last month at the age of 70. In addition to his striking resemblance to the jolly old elf from the North Pole, Jim shared the same benevolent spirit.

But instead of delivering sacks of toys, Jim spent his career dispensing wisdom, insights and opinions about the issues he felt most strongly about.

He wrote for and was quoted by this magazine and our sister publication, Canadian Healthcare Manager, dozens of times. For this we are deeply indebted to him. He even served as a guest editor of BENEFITS CANADA’s September 2001 issue upon his retirement.

But Jim never really retired. I don’t think many people really expected he ever would. He just kept passing on his wisdom, starting his own consulting firm, appropriately named Kris Kringle and Associates.

Despite his small stature, he was a passionate and authoritative voice. The predominant theme of his speeches and articles—whether lamenting the ineffective use or prescribing of medication, passing on strategies for managing drug plan costs or musing about the impact of emerging or blockbuster drugs—was the role of medications in creating a healthy workforce.

But he was most passionate when speaking and writing about Canada’s healthcare system. Although he saw the need for employers to have a strong voice in the system’s future, he was a staunch defender of a public system—not surprising considering he was the son of a hospital administrator and a nurse.

“I would much rather fix and improve the Canadian system than try to build a system like the one in the
U.S.,” he said in 2000. The solution, he argued, is to focus on preventing disease rather than treating it, and to make better use of the system’s limited resources.

“The system . . . is largely uncoordinated, unintegrated and unmanaged. Public and private services within each system are not linked. We need to correct all these problems and we have to do it with a bit more wisdom, sophistication and backbone than our politicians have shown to date.” Thanks for your passion Jim. We’re going to miss it.

Don Bisch