‘Bob from Calgary’ is actually from Edmonton.
The man behind the most popular comment ever posted on the New York Times’ website revealed himself on Twitter to be Robert J. Summers, an earth-sciences professor and researcher at the University of Alberta. He was travelling in Calgary when he wrote the comment — hence the handle.
Summers’ comment, written in response to a Paul Krugman column from 2010 about wealth and privilege, garnered over 7,000 recommendations. A comment on a New York Times story about a mass shooting in Charleston, S.C. took second place, with 5,400 recommendations.
Summers felt that Canada’s health-care and education systems are much better than services in the U.S.
“My household makes just over $250,000 here in Canada. One of the best bargains I get for my money is living in a place where I and everyone I know sends their kids to public schools because they are really good,” he wrote. He went on to address the importance of consistently funding these services — even if it means higher taxes. In his view, the U.S. has not been doing this in recent years.
Summers, who described his comment as being “off-the-cuff”, said that he was surprised when news outlets around the world began publishing stories last month about its record-breaking metrics. Summers’ was congratulated on Saturday by Edmonton mayor Don Iveson.
“I admit to a little bit of unbridled Canadian patriotism, and to not fully reflecting the many challenges we face in this country,” he wrote in a commentary piece for the Globe and Mail published on Jan. 1.
“With that said, I still hold true to the underlying intent of the comment, which is that a great many individuals in both Canada and the United States are happy to pay taxes in order to ensure an equitable and well-run society.”
He also quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes, former U.S. Supreme Court justice: “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.”
Summers commented on a New York Times story last November about the most popular comments in the website’s history, clarifying that he is actually from Edmonton and apologizing for anyone he’s offended.
Commenter Stephen Beard pointed out Summers’ steadfast adherence to Canadian stereotypes in a follow-up to that story:
“Bob from Calgary (or Edmonton, where-ever) again offers an excellent comment comparing and contrasting the US and Canada. And in the modest Canadian manner, he offers his apologies for offending anyone. Never fear, sir. Smart and insightful only generates offense amongst jerks.”