OTTAWA -- The federal Liberal leadership race is getting crowded at the starting gate -- but a stiff entry fee may yet winnow the field.

The party will officially fire the starting gun on Wednesday.

That same day, former MP Martha Hall Findlay -- who just finished paying off her debt from a 2006 bid for the party's leadership -- is scheduled to formally launch her second attempt at the top job.

Vancouver MP Joyce Murray is expected to follow suit next week, followed closely by Toronto lawyer George Takach.

They will join Justin Trudeau, the prohibitive favourite who jumped the gun six weeks ago and has what some consider an insurmountable head start.

A clutch of lesser known contenders also took the plunge early, including Toronto lawyer and public policy consultant Deborah Coyne, mother of Trudeau's half-sister; Vancouver Crown prosecutor Alex Burton; Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi; and David Merner, former president of the party's British Columbia wing.