The Bob-from-Calgary story just keeps getting more Canadian.
After it surfaced in the national consciousness (a month after the fact) that a generically named Canuck, ostensibly from Alberta's largest city, had earned the honour of writing the most popular New York Times comment of all time, it became a coast-to-coast-to-coast quest (among news and social-media types, at least) to find out who this guy is.
It turns out that Bob isn't actually from Calgary, but from Edmonton.
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Bob says he just happened to be in Calgary on the day he wrote a compelling comparison between life north and south of the border in response to a Paul Krugman column about inequality in wealth and political influence.
This, Bob explains in a comment on the Times' story about his most-popular-ever comment.
That comment? Also the most popular on the story.
'I apologise for those offended'
The follow-up comment is also quintessentially Canadian, with Bob saying he's "a bit embarrassed" by the popularity of his initial comment and saying he's sorry — using British spelling — to anyone whose hackles may have been raised by his critique of U.S. social and electoral policy.
"I apologise for those offended by my comment," he wrote. "I love your country. I am proud, though, that Canada has resisted practices such as gerrymandering and the undue influence of corporations and the wealthy on democracy."
"I think that the comment becoming popular had nothing to do with any comparison between Canada & the USA, but rather it was because Americans are seeking the re-establishment of an economic system that benefits the middle classes, the poor, & the wealthy in an equitable way," Bob continues.
"They want to return to being a compassionate society. One where there are opportunities for all to succeed through hard work (the American Dream!)."
New Year's Day reveal
On New Year's Day, in a Globe and Mail column and on Twitter, Bob revealed his identity as Robert Summers, an instructor of earth and atmospheric sciences at the University of Alberta.
My friends this morning can feel very Canadian in that they do know “Bob from Calgary”! #everybodyknowseverybodyinCanada— @RJSCity
He described his initial comment on the Krugman column as an "off-the-cuff" thing, and again expressed his wish that he had taken a bit more time to craft the message more thoughtfully.
"I admit to a little bit of unbridled Canadian patriotism, and to not fully reflecting the many challenges we face in this country," Bob wrote in his New Year's Day column.
"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."
Readers (try to) help
Way back in 2015, in response to our initial story about Bob, readers offered their suggestions as to who they thought the once-mysterious man might be.
Here are some of the tips we received — some sincere, others not so much — when it was still believed Bob was from Calgary:
• He lives next door to me with his brother Doug Mackenzie. They cook a lot of bacon and drink a lot of beer out of those retro stubby bottles.
• I'm not THE Bob from Calgary but I am A Bob from Calgary. My namesake has nailed it exactly. I'm a physician and have been practicing, teaching, and doing medical research for over 30 years. I count many US physicians as good friends and colleagues, and I know their working environment well. It is awful. I would never move south, partly because their lives are worse, and partly because, well, I love it up here. Sure, Canada has lots of problems and sometimes things get you down, and sometimes we endure awful political leaders far too long, but this is home.
• I know Bob. It's Bob Snider! Pro lacrosse player!
• Hi. I am a Bob from Calgary. Lol.
• My bets are Bob from Calgary is really "Skier Bob". Any XC skier who travels to the mountains will know who he is and how his "Ski Here" website has been invaluable for local ski lovers.
• I'm guessing could be that Bob is either: (1) Bob Edwards — publisher for the satirical newspaper The Calgary Eyeopener circa 1910s and early-20s — at the time the most widely read Canadian newspaper west of Toronto. Or (2) Bob Kroetsch — novelist of such acclaimed 1960s works set in Alberta such as The Studhorse Man. In NYC, Kroetsch's publisher supposedly asked him in all seriousness: "This place called Alberta, tell me, does it really exist?"
• I know Bob from Calgary! He's my husband!
• He's my son
Thanks for the replies, everyone!