10/15/2014 20:25 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST

Vachon MNA Martine Ouellet first out of gate for Parti Québécois leadership

Martine Ouellet is the first out of the gate in the race for the Parti Québécois leadership. The Vachon MNA picked up the formal paperwork on Tuesday and is working to collect the required 2,000 signatures from across the province to make her leadership run official.

Ouellet is the former natural resources minister in the Marois government. An engineer by training, she was elected in a by-election in 2012. 

In her political career, Ouellet has been a little to the left of her party. She says if elected leader, her priorities will be protecting the environment and improving Quebec's economic prospects. 

Her plan to do both starts with Quebec becoming an independent nation.

"The federal government and also the Liberal government plays together to make the Quebec state just a passage for the tar sands - I think it’s not acceptable," she said.

She believes the PQ's result in the April election - which saw them reduced from governing party to opposition with the Liberals holding a majority - was not a rejection of sovereignty. She says the public rejected a party that was not accepting of all cultures.

"Last April was really hard," she said. "I think the message is, we cannot do the things we did for the last years. We need to change."

To accomplish that change, Ouellet says she's going to make re-invigorating the party's youth wing and encouraging political involvement from all cultures her priorities.