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Conservative MP Michael Chong guestures during a news conference December 3, 2013 in Ottawa.Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

A Conservative MP is backing off key provisions of a bill aimed at reducing the power of party leaders, a bid to win enough support for it to become law.

Michael Chong announced the latest two changes to his Reform Act on Thursday. They largely abandon a plan to hand final authority over candidate selection to local party members, and they would allow party caucuses to opt out of the bill's powers to turf a party leader, among other things.

Reaction from MPs who have supported the bill since it was tabled last December was mixed, although Mr. Chong defended the changes, saying they come after months of consultation.

"The concerns I heard were broad and from all parties," Mr. Chong, who represents a southern Ontario riding, said in an interview on Thursday, later adding: "I think with these changes, the chances of the bill have gone up significantly."

One supporter of the bill, however, believes the changes weaken it. A first round of changes was tabled in the spring.

"I'm very, very concerned about these amendments," said Brent Rathgeber, an Independent MP who quit the Conservative caucus last year. "I preferred the original version of his bill to the second version that was tabled [in spring], and I certainly have more confidence in either of those versions than I do regarding these proposed amendments."

Three other Conservative MPs who support the bill – Ontario's Stella Ambler and Larry Miller, and New Brunswick's John Williamson – said on Thursday that they back the changes.

"It still represents significant change and reform, and that's what we're looking to accomplish," Ms. Ambler said, later saying the changes were "a result of that listening, and that flexibility and that desire to make change and to realize that maybe it can't be done all at once."

Mr. Williamson echoed that. "The changes he's proposing are really in the spirit to win bipartisan, if not multi-partisan, support to see the Reform Act passed into law," he said.

Mr. Chong's initial bill sought to roll back power that has been gradually concentrated in the hands of party leaders, and instead empower MPs. The changes were widely applauded by democratic reform advocates, and the bill got early backing from Conservative MPs and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet, and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, gave it a cool reception.

One key change initially proposed would have given final authority over a candidate's nomination to a party's local riding association – a power that currently rests with the leader, who can theoretically refuse to approve a nomination to punish someone who stepped out of line. Mr. Chong's initial changes backed off that, suggesting instead that each party give signing authority to an official in each province.

On Thursday, he suggested handing signing authority to a single person, and letting each party sort out how to choose that person. The individual chosen could be the party leader. "But I think the tendency will be to go the other way," because of public pressure, Mr. Chong said.

The second change proposed by Mr. Chong related to powers the bill would give MP caucuses to kick out a party leader, choose an interim one, elect a caucus chair and control caucus membership. Mr. Chong still proposes rules on these fronts, but on Thursday said he would allow caucuses to vote, immediately after an election, on whether to use the powers at all.

Mr. Rathgeber called that an "opt-out" clause, and wondered why it was being proposed. "One party or another has convinced him that an escape valve is required, so that means somebody in some house leader's office, or in some whip's office, is thinking we just might [need] this," Mr. Rathgeber said.

Mr. Chong said he was not disappointed at having to make the changes in a bid to gain support from all parties ahead of a second-reading vote on Sept. 24.

"Where we are at today, with the changes, reflects that constructive dialogue that I've had over the last nine months. So I am cautiously optimistic about achieving change that will strengthen our democratic institutions," he said.