EDMONTON — The identity of the man behind the most popular comment ever made on the New York Times’ website is finally out in the open.
Bob from Calgary, as he was identified on the site, is actually Bob from Edmonton. And it turns out Bob from Edmonton is Robert Summers, a researcher and instructor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Alberta.
Summers’s identity was revealed in a piece contributed to the Globe and Mail on New Year’s Day.
“I’m surprised that the comment was so popular; also a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t taken better care to write it more eloquently and accurately,” he wrote in the piece.
Summers’s original comment was made in 2010 on an article titled “The Angry Rich.” The article outlines the rage spewing from many top-income earners in the U.S. over any hint of modest tax increases while many lesser advantaged silently bear the true brunt of economic downturns.
“I thought it was really neat -I was shocked by it,” he told Global News. “It was a flippant quick comment that I wrote without a lot of thought or editing and it became so popular.”
Summers’ very Canadian response praised the country’s public schools, universal health care, banking system and paid maternity and paternity leave, and said his tax bill is only two per cent higher than it would be south of the border.
He added he didn’t feel Canadians were any less free than their American counterparts.
“The American political system has really been hijacked by special interests; by large corporations,” Summers told Global News. “We’ve (Canadians) been very fortunate that people have worked to build what I think is a superior democracy here and because of that we’ve got a more equitable situation where people have an equal opportunity; not everybody’s equal but we have a more equal opportunity.”
Summers shot back to fame again recently after writing another response in the comments section of the New York Times’ website.
In the Globe and Mail piece, Summers said his opinions have not swayed.
“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. It’s a simple reiteration of the 1904 quote by the American Oliver Wendell Holmes: ‘Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,’” he wrote.
“Populist, anti-elite, anti-knowledge conservatives, such as Donald Trump in the United States, are the antithesis to such nuanced and informed consideration. To quote Mr. Krugman, ‘craziness has gone mainstream’ in American politics. In contrast, when Stephen Harper took a turn at seeking to exploit anti-immigrant rhetoric in our last election, he was broadly panned in the media and punished by the Canadian public. Craziness doesn’t sell in Canadian politics.”
He then wrote from the heart about the NDP government in Alberta.
“In my own province, I am hoping the NDP moves forward with an emphasis on good governance and that they continue to seek counsel broadly from those who understand the important balance of social, economic and environmental concerns,” he writes.
“I am also hoping the Progressive Conservative Party reinvents itself in a way that reflects the respect for rationality and a belief in the important role of government that their ‘Progressive’ label suggests. Indeed, I believe the problems in Alberta relate to our past failures to be prudent in building the Heritage Savings Trust Fund for the future where we will not be able to depend upon our oil for our economic success.”
Summers then ended the piece saying he hopes his “Bob from Calgary” fame encourages Canadians to stay involved and interested in what happens in their country.
“I make a call to all of my fellow citizens to remain involved and vigilant to ensure that Canadian politics remains healthy, that we continue to invest in one another, that we avoid demagoguery and that we work to ensure that Canada remains one of the best countries in the world to live in.”
“I’m just a very typical Canadian in terms of my beliefs and values; or at least I think I am,” Summers told Global News. “All of us who believe in that middle ground need to continue to fight for it.”
Summers said while he wasn’t seeking attention, the media buzz has been fun but now he is looking forward to having things return to normal.
He told Global News that he still plans to post the occasional comment.
-with files from Caley Ramsey and Tania Kohut
© 2016 Shaw Media