05/27/2016 19:02 EDT | Updated 05/28/2017 01:12 EDT

B.C. Liberal candidate Randy Rinaldo ends campaign over 'insensitive' tweets

VANCOUVER — A candidate for the British Columbia Liberals has ended his campaign for the 2017 provincial election after he was criticized for tweets he sent several years ago.

Randy Rinaldo announced Friday in a statement posted to Twitter that he had withdrawn his candidacy for the riding of Burnaby-Lougheed.

"My past Twitter posts have made me reflect on whether the current timing is truly the best fit for this point in my life. My wife and I are expecting our second child soon and my responsibility as a father needs to be my priority and focus," the real estate agent said.

"While insensitive Twitter posts from several years ago no longer reflect who I am today, the fact remains that this issue has become a distraction to my candidacy and my family responsibilities."

Rinaldo's past tweets included a comment that child poverty was a "cultural problem" because many people shouldn't be having kids. The 2012 post surfaced about two weeks ago when a Vancouver school board trustee highlighted it on Twitter.

In another tweet from 2012, directed to former B.C. Premier and MP Ujjal Dosanjh, Rinaldo said the Roma people were "destroying" Italy and added "Gypseys=rape pillage steal."

Rinaldo apologized for the tweets after facing a backlash earlier this month, writing, "As a member of the Facebook generation I'm aware of the benefits of this forum, but should have understood the pitfalls."

He said in his statement Friday that it had been a difficult few weeks as he arrived at the decision to withdraw and he extended his thanks to the many people who had reached out to support him.

Rinaldo said he hoped his decision would not deter other young people from elected office.

"It is important that we do not immediately disqualify individuals from seeking to represent their communities because they took positions on complex issues in the past," he said.

"We should allow people to express their opinions and accept that those opinions can change."