Hi, C. I'll try to give you some help on the second part. Stripping paint off brick is a daunting job. The chemical strippers are great for most surfaces but it is still very difficult to get the paint/stripper goo out of brick. I think that the methyl chloride strippers, while safer to use outside, are still dangerous for the user. There are much safer strippers but you are still stuck with the problem of stripping brick at all.
Sandblasting is a viable alternative but not a do-it-yourself project. Sandblasting a house requires a very large compressor in addition to the grit blast gun. The gun requires the use of a large volume of high pressure air and small compressors will not keep up with the demand. This volume and pressure are tough to use and you can do damage to the brick if you are not careful. There is also a pretty good possibility that some of the paint is lead based. This calls for a high level of protective measures for the gun operator. I don't know what is required in Canada but I do know that many regulations are much tougher than in the US. You should check this out before contemplating the work.
One of the regular posters on this board has turned down buying a house that he otherwise liked because of painted brick. I don't think that any of the regulars would buy one. Once they are painted, you either have to strip, and you can see the problems with that, or repaint as you would a wood house. Just some things to consider.