NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - Ontario's economy has to continue to grow if it's going to support the province's most needy residents, Premier Dalton McGuinty told Liberal delegates at the party's weekend policy convention Saturday.

As delegates crafted policy that will help shape the party's election platform, McGuinty told them having a strong Ontario economy is the key to building a compassionate society.

"As Liberals, we've always understood that a strong economy is a means to a higher end,'' McGuinty told the crowd of about 375 Liberals following a lunchtime speech by Research In Motion chair Jim Balsillie. "That higher end is a strong, caring and compassionate society but you need the financial wherewithal to support that society.''

As the maker of the BlackBerry wireless device, McGuinty said Balsillie has helped strengthen the Ontario economy. Every time he sees a BlackBerry, McGuinty said he sees 5,000 Ontario job that fuel a good standard of living for those families.

But, he said more must be done.

"We have been commissioned by history . . . to lead,'' McGuinty said. "That's not a choice of ours. Our responsibility -- shared as it is -- is to lead.''

Liberals from across Ontario are gathering _ in one of their final policy conventions before the October provincial election -- to help create a blueprint of party priorities after only winning one of three byelections last week. Liberal John Milloy said Balsillie's very presence at the Liberals convention is "a sign the premier is on the right track.''

Campaign chair and Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said growing the economy and creating opportunity for the province's most needy residents is an emerging focus, whether it's by improving child care or welfare policies.

"The best way to address economic circumstances is continue to build a stronger and stronger economy and to create opportunity,'' Sorbara said. "There is this wonderful, garden-variety of ideas as to how we go about building on that.''

Health Minister George Smitherman said delegates want the party to improve support for home care and transit in its election platform. Liberals want seniors to get more support to live in their homes as long as possible rather than funding more hospital beds, Smitherman said.

Delegates also want more transit options and improvements to transportation infrastructure to help reduce Ontario's environmental footprint, he added.

"That's one theme that has been quite recurring,'' Smitherman said.

Conservative Tim Hudak said the Liberals can come up with a rainbow of new policies at this weekend's convention. But he said the public won't buy any of it come election time in October.

The party has lost three byelections in former Liberal strongholds since they were elected in 2003, Hudak said. That shows the public has had enough of Liberal broken promises.

"There's no doubt that when people see Dalton McGuinty, the first thing they think is this guy breaks his promises,'' he said. "I don't think people will trust any new promises that come from this convention. It's time to give these guys the boot.''