Whether it was legal aid or changes to auto insurance, Peter Kormos always viewed the issue through the lens of the average person, says former Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton.
“That’s how he approached almost all issues,” says Hampton, now counsel at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, of his former caucus mate and friend as well as fellow lawyer.
Kormos, the colourful former MPP for Welland, Ont., who died this weekend at the age of 60, played many roles during his time in the NDP caucus, including critic for the attorney general. Family law was among his key concerns, says Hampton.
“He was very concerned about the number of people going into the family court unrepresented,” says Hampton, adding Kormos would sometimes use the term “legal aid washing” to refer to the inadequacy of legal aid funding in both the criminal and family law systems.
But while Kormos had a gift for political theatrics, he was also an extremely hardworking representative, according to Hampton.
“The great thing about Peter was he could take on four or five different roles,” he says, noting Kormos could present extensive legal and parliamentary research that could stop his opponents in their tracks. This despite the fact he didn’t have an assistant at Queen’s Park and instead chose to channel his budgetary resources to his local constituency office. “He loved the work.”
Kormos, of course, had a reputation for challenging authority and had notable disagreements with the government while serving in the cabinet and caucus of former NDP premier Bob Rae. Hampton, however, says the two remained good friends during his time as leader and following their departures from politics despite the fact they were rivals in the 1996 NDP leadership contest.
“I’d never tell you it was all sweetness and light,” says Hampton, who notes the two could eventually find common ground after debating the issue.
“Peter liked a good argument,” he says.
“I liked the way he did politics and he liked the way I did politics.”