WELLAND, Ont. - Friends and political foes are remembering former Ontario New Democrat Peter Kormos for his outsized personality and unyielding passion to fight for the powerless.

Niagara region police say Kormos, 60, died Saturday morning at his home in Welland, Ont. The cause of death was not immediately known.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Kormos was a personal mentor who was relentless in his advocacy for Ontarians, especially those in contact with the justice system.

"He knew what he was there to do, which was stick up for the little guy and fight for everyday folk," she said.

After ending a 23-year-stint at the legislature in 2011, Kormos was elected last year to represent Welland on Niagara Regional Council.

Coun. Andrew Petrowski, who co-hosted a radio talk show with Kormos, said he was a force to be reckoned with in the council chamber.

"When Peter stood up nobody in council, including the chair, could control him. He was in control of that council and he would get his thought across come heck or high water," he said.

Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted her condolences.

"Peter Kormos was a supportive friend, and I will miss his presence and his profound understanding of parliamentary procedure."

A criminal lawyer by trade, Kormos was first elected to the legislature in 1988.

He was named to cabinet when the New Democrats surprisingly swept to power under Bob Rae in 1990.

But Kormos, known to speak his mind, feuded with Rae over public auto insurance, which Kormos pushed for but the government never went ahead with.

Kormos was a bombastic speaker and didn't shy away from antics in the legislature, such as an all-night speech on the insurance issue. His staple outfit consisted of a collared shirt and cowboy boots.

A series of events including his posing, fully clothed, as a "Sunshine Boy" in the Toronto Sun newspaper led to his removal from cabinet in 1991.

"Mr. Rae blessed me by creating that distance between me and him. It guaranteed that I got re-elected in '95," Kormos told The Canadian Press before his retirement in 2011.

Rae remembered Kormos as someone who always stood up for what he believed in.

"I remember him as a man of passion and great determination. He became a fierce critic of mine, but that happens in life and politics, and I know he continued to have a real impact at Queen's Park and in the Niagara region," Rae said in an email.

Kormos was prone to witty hyperbole in the legislature, comparing former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty to Pontius Pilate for trying to oust the province's ombudsman. As a lawyer, Kormos knew how to walk the fine line between outrageous put-down and slander.

Kormos was deeply passionate about human rights and social justice, and spoke strongly against the governing Liberals over a secret law they passed giving police powers to detain and arrest people during the Toronto G20 summit in 2010.

In a statement, Tory Leader Tim Hudak said Kormos was a one-of-a-kind politician, but one who dropped his partisanship at the door on his way out of the legislature.

"It's rarely said — and in the best sense of the phrase — by politicians these days when speaking of someone so diametrically opposed in beliefs and convictions, but I can say with sad confidence on this day, 'We shall not see his like again."

— By Will Campbell in Toronto

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  • Jeffrey Ferrier

    My favorite Peter Kormos moment - the Monique Smith dress code debate. PK showed up in a tux and said this: http://t.co/jlnlgYFoql #onpoli

  • Rob Ferguson

    So sad to hear fmr New Dem MPP Peter Kormos had died. A key voice on progressive social policy, a great sense of humour. A big loss. #onpoli

  • Cheri DiNovo

    Peter Kormos has died, former MPP Welland - one of Queen's Park's funniest and wisest legislators #onpoli #cdnpoli #topoli

  • Shelley Carroll

    @sunlorrie Says a lot about Peter Kormos that condolences equally heartfelt across the spectrum. #RIPPeter #TOpoli

  • _

    RT @TPFFA: Saddened to hear of the loss of former MPP Peter Kormos, champion of labour and friend to Ontario's firefighters. Thoughts to his family.

  • BrindusaB

    RT @sunlorrie: Terrible news: A true maverick and good guy. Condolences to his family: Peter Kormos, former NDP MPP has died http://t.co/sQkK4TVX5l #onpoli

  • Genevieve Tomney

    Very sad to hear. RT@CBCToronto: Former NDP politician Peter Kormos dead at 60 after emergency call to his home. http://t.co/bGFVfqnlBr.

  • Mike Jancik

    RT @reggcohn: Former NDP house leader and maverick MPP Peter Kormos has died. He was 60. A real character at Queen's Park.

  • eileen oliver

    RT @CraigScottNDP: We've just lost two very colourful political figures, each known for speaking their mind. Peter Kormos follows Ralph Klein.

  • Cathy Sewell

    Saddened by the death of former NDP MPP Peter Kormos...he was always a fun interview :'(

  • Brian Whitmore

    RT @JTowndale: Ralph Klein and Peter Kormos. May not have agreed with them, but I respected their dedication to public service. RIP. #cdnpoli #onpoli

  • Todd Bosak

    Every community should be so lucky to have someone care about it at Peter Kormos did for Welland. RIP Peter.

  • Jen Simon

    Good man, one of my fav MPPs when I worked at the legislature - Outspoken former Ontario NDP MPP Peter Kormos dies http://t.co/EJH19oXDoW

  • Jeff Bolichowski

    RT @siomo: More fun facts about Peter Kormos: he always wore cowboy boots & I never once saw him with his shirt cuffs buttoned

  • Tim Parent

    RT @TarekFatah: Peter #Kormos never wore a necktie in the legislature, but always came with cowboy boots to kick ass. I miss my Dipper days today; we fought

  • Bernie M. Farber

    I had my disagreements with Peter Kormos but always knew he had a passion 4 people & social justice. May his memory be for a blessing