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B.C. Liberal candidate Randy Rinaldo apologizes for ‘insensitive’ tweets

The Twitter logo is seen in this file photo.

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters

A B.C. Liberal candidate has apologized for his "insensitive" social-media posts – though at least one political expert said the blanket apology falls short.

Randy Rinaldo, who will run for the Liberals in the riding of Burnaby-Lougheed in next year's provincial election, apologized for the posts via Twitter on Thursday.

The Liberal Party offered no indication it would ask Mr. Rinaldo to step aside, arguing that in the social-media age there must be an acknowledgment that past opinions can change.

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"I want to apologize unreservedly for my past social media posts. They were insensitive and don't reflect the person I am today," Mr. Rinaldo wrote.

"As a member of the Facebook generation I'm aware of the benefits of this forum, but should have understood the pitfalls."

Mr. Rinaldo did not respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking further information about his posts and apology.

In one tweet from 2012 – a screen-capture of which was posted by a Vancouver school trustee – Mr. Rinaldo said child poverty was a "cultural problem." He did not specify how, but added "many people out there shouldn't be having kids."

In another tweet that same year – a screen-capture of which also circulated on Twitter – Mr. Rinaldo appeared to denigrate the Roma.

He said the Roma are "destroying" Italy and added "Gypseys=rape pillage steal."

Mr. Rinaldo did not provide answers when asked Thursday how his opinions had changed. He also appeared to have deleted many of his tweets. A cached version of his Twitter page said he had, as of earlier this week, sent more than 5,800 tweets. However, by Thursday morning his total number of tweets sent was down to approximately 3,900. By Thursday afternoon, the number was at 3,800.

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The B.C. Liberal Party, in a statement, said it has a "thorough candidate vetting process" and Mr. Rinaldo "openly disclosed to the Party that he had posted some social media in the past which he regrets."

It called Mr. Rinaldo a strong candidate.

"As we attract candidates – particularly ones from the Facebook generation – it is crucial that we find a balance between holding individuals accountable for past comments and accepting that attitudes and opinions change," the statement read.

Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, in an interview said Mr. Rinaldo's apology "doesn't cut it for me." He said such an apology might have worked for a youthful indiscretion or failed joke.

"These two tweets that I've seen … I think reflect deeply held beliefs," he said. "If he doesn't hold those beliefs any more, good. But … it requires a more elaborate statement."

Max Cameron, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia, said he was pleased to see Mr. Rinaldo had apologized. He said if everyone who had written something offensive online was disqualified from public office, "the pool of prospective candidates would diminish drastically."

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"We can't be so demanding of one another that nobody ever gets a second chance," he said in an interview. "On the other hand, it also, to me, reinforces the concern that I have of the intolerance and nastiness in the social-media universe."

Prof. Telford said there was a time when a candidate found to have said something inappropriate would have been immediately dropped by the party.

"But given the prevalence of social media, it's inevitable that people are going to have said something that wasn't quite right at some point. And so I think parties are trying to find the appropriate balance," he said.

Prof. Cameron said the incident underscores the importance of being careful when posting online. He said he expects the problem to again rear its head in the lead-up to next May's campaign.

"I'm absolutely sure that we'll see more of this. In every election in recent memory, these kinds of issues have arisen. It's inevitable that it's going to continue," he said.

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