It's a widely held belief in politics that governments fall by defeating themselves rather than an opposition party seizing victory on the strength of a charismatic leader or a compelling election platform.
That scenario is playing itself out in Ontario, where the Liberals under Premier Kathleen Wynne are feeling a lot of panic these days as the government lurches from bad news to more bad news.
The reasons for the Liberals' panic are obvious: a series of political scandals, soaring electricity rates, a struggling provincial economy and a general sense of fatigue after more than 13 years in power.
At this stage, Wynne appears down and out, with her approval rating at an all-time low of 14 per cent, the worst for any premier in Canada. One pollster is now predicting a "supermajority" victory for the Conservatives in the 2018 election, with the Liberals a distant third behind the second-place NDP.
Despite the favourable signs pointing their way, though, both the Tories and NDP run a serious risk of seeing their current advantages fade due to questionable leadership and internal strife within their own ranks.
Indeed, 2017 will be a year of reckoning for both Conservative leader Patrick Brown and NDP leader Andrea Horwath.
Over the next 12 months, Brown's strategy will be to say as little as possible, hammer away at a few key issues, such as hydro rates, and drive home a message that "it's time for change" given that the Liberals will have been in power for 15 years by the time the June 7, 2018, election rolls around.
As the year starts, Brown doesn't seem to be facing any serious trouble unless the small but highly vocal social conservative wing of the party undermines his caucus unity.
But Brown's lead in the polls is vulnerable. Despite being party leader for 17 months, he is still relatively unknown by voters.
More troubling is that some party insiders dismiss him as not a strong leader in the style of Mike Harris and others suggest he may not have control of his often-contentious legislative caucus.
Worrisome signs are already emerging for Brown.
First, he's gaining a reputation as a politician who flip-flops on key issues, as highlighted by his handling of the party's position on the updated sex-education curriculum.
Second, he's fighting a rearguard action against aggressive social conservatives within the party who backed his 2015 leadership bid, but now feel he has betrayed them by announcing he has no intention of rolling back abortion rights, gay marriage or the new sex ed curriculum.
Deb Hutton, a former top aide to Mike Harris and the wife of former Tory leader Tim Hudak, writing recently in QP Briefing newsletter, dismisses articles about the role of social conservatives within the party. "The notion that there is a growing shift in the makeup of the Ontario PC Party, or that the party is deeply divided along these lines is ridiculous," she wrote.
But then she criticized Brown, saying he "self-inflicted" the "wound" to some extent himself by trying to "distance himself from his previous position on some of these issues."
In particular, she noted that Brown's handling of Bill 28, the All Families Are Equal Act, "once again shone a light on issues that do little to lead to his electoral success in 2018." Hutton concluded that unless Brown "can find a way to shift the media focus from social issues, it will be a tougher road ahead."
For Horwath, the risk is that she plays it too safe, believing NDP voters who abandoned the party in the 2014 election and voted strategically for the Wynne Liberals in order to ensure Hudak was defeated will simply return to the fold in 2018.
But after nearly eight years as NDP leader, Horwath still seems to lack true political gut instincts. The most recent example of that is her decision to oppose Toronto's plan to impose tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. That directly conflicts with the views of every NDP-leaning Toronto councillor, the very people Horwath needs to help run her campaign in the city.
The anti-toll stand was "the last straw" for Paul Ferreira, a former MPP who quit the party in protest. Ferreira is likely not alone in the NDP in his views.
As the Conservatives and NDP see it, there's lots of time for Brown and Horwath to "fix" these issues, gain control of their caucus, and get through 2017 with a game plan that includes consistent stands on key policies.
The question is what happens if Brown and Horwath fail to do just that.