07/08/2014 11:27 EDT | Updated 09/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Mother of Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger has died at the age of 85

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger's mother — a woman he credited with teaching him that challenges can be overcome — has died.

Margaret Selinger, who was born Margaret Crawford in Regina, died early last week at the age of 85, the premier's staff confirmed Tuesday.

The premier has not commented publicly on his mother's death and has been dealing with flooding in southern Manitoba virtually around the clock.

Selinger has rarely talked about his private life, but paid tribute to his mother in a 2011 interview with The Canadian Press.

Selinger's parents separated when he was very young and the family was living in Vancouver. His mother moved back to Regina to find work, while he stayed with his grandparents in a rural Saskatchewan community for several months.

The family then moved to the middle-class St. James neighbourhood of Winnipeg where his mother set up a clothing store, juggling a business and a family as a single parent in the 1960s.

It was at the store where Selinger — who would go on to serve 10 years as provincial finance minister before becoming premier — took an interest in financial matters.

It was also through his mother's struggle that he developed a social conscience.

"That's obviously a big part of it, to see the challenges she had and which she handled quite well. You develop a sensitivity to that, right?," he said in the interview.

"The strongest thing I drew from my mother was resiliency — the bounce, the ability to keep finding better ways to make a living."

She later worked in office administration and real estate, and saved money to put Selinger through university, where he obtained a degree in social work.

In his 20s, Selinger helped establish an economic development agency for low-income earners that exists to this day.