British Columbia MP Joyce Murray has officially entered the race to become the next leader of the Liberal party, saying her experience in the environmental sector, in business and in politics make her an ideal candidate to rebuild the once-strong party.

In announcing the news Monday, Murray becomes the first politician from Western Canada to enter the race.

"Today I stand in Ottawa because I know we must do better, we can do better by electing a new leadership that reflects the full Canadian experience and Canadian values," Murray told reporters. "Today I’m announcing my candidacy for leader of the Liberal Party of Canada."

Murray, 58, said as leader she would advocate for a national carbon tax, push to decriminalize marijuana and push for greater gender balance within the Liberal party.

Murray also took the bold step of suggesting she would try to work with the New Democrats and Greens to establish a system to avoid vote-splitting in tightly contested ridings in the next election.

While she said she wasn't ready to offer a lot of details about the plan, Murray suggested the opposition parties could hold runoff elections in some ridings to select a single candidate that would have the best shot at defeating the Conservative contender.

The system would be in place for the next election only, she said.

Murray is a former provincial MLA turned MP who represents the B.C. riding of Vancouver-Quadra.

Among others, Murray will be up against perceived frontrunner Justin Trudeau, former Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay and former astronaut Marc Garneau, who is expected to announce his leadership bid later this week, in Montreal.

Murray's announcement comes at a time when the Liberals are under fire in Western Canada over controversial remarks that emerged last week. Trudeau was forced to apologize for comments he made two years ago to a Quebec radio station, in which he said MPs from Quebec make the best prime ministers and complained that "Albertans are controlling our community and socio-democratic agenda."

And Ontario Liberal MP David McGuinty stepped down as the party's energy critic earlier last week after suggesting Alberta Conservative MPs weren't fit to sit in Parliament if they didn't hold a "national vision" on energy policy.

The Liberal candidates appear to be aware the party faces major challenges in the west. Though Findlay is from Toronto she announced her candidacy in Calgary, saying she chose the location in order to demonstrate that the Liberal party still represents the entire country. However, she said she would likely run for Parliament in her old Toronto riding of Willowdale.

In a recent interview with Power Play, Murray said she wasn't ready to formally declare her intentions but did offer a "round up of my strengths," saying her skills in business, politics and the environment would theoretically make her a realistic contender against Trudeau.

"Justin is bringing a lot of attention and interest to this race, but I think a lot of people are going to be saying we have an incredible erosion of our democracy and an undermining of our social safety net. And frankly, the economy is muddling along and it's not doing that well," Murray said. "So a lot of people are intensely interested in making sure Stephen Harper does not get back into the prime minister’s chair because he's bad for Canada.

"It's going to take hard work to do that, it's going to take experience and I bring a tried and true experience of delivering in business and in government."

The third-place Liberals will choose a successor to interim Leader Bob Rae on April 14, 2013 at a leadership convention in Ottawa.

Murray was first elected in 2001 to the B.C. provincial legislature, taking on the ministry of water, land and air protection portfolio which she held for three years before becoming minister of management services. She was defeated in 2005 by an NDP candidate, then lost a bid for a federal seat in 2006 before being elected in a 2008 byelection in Vancouver-Quadra.

Murray and her husband, Dirk, started a reforestation company in 1979 that has now become an international leader in the industry. The couple has three children.

She told Power Play she personally planted half a million trees during her time with the company: "so I call myself a down-to-earth politician."